Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 06/26/2016
Format: 06/26/2016
Agatha Lawrence v. Findlay Industries
01S01-9605-GS-00086
Authoring Judge: William H. Inman, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. J. Richard Mcgregor,
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. I The plaintiff alleged that she suffered a series of injuries in April, June and August 1992 which aggravated an undescribed condition, and as of January 13, 1993 suffers from bilateral hand pain and numbness with cervical radiculopathy and carpal tunnel syndrome with specific thumb involvement. This case was filed in the General Sessions Court of Warren County, and was, by agreement, heard by the Clerk and Master, "acting as Judge of the General Sessions Court," on October 4, 1995. The trial court found that the plaintiff had a 4 percent permanent partial disability to her left arm, and a 24 percent permanent partial disability to her whole body as a result of a cervical injury. The employer appeals, (1) questioning the finding of a cervical injury, and (2) whether the award of benefits is excessive. II The plaintiff testified that she was, at trial date, "a young 65," who entered the labor market at age 15 or 16 as a sewing machine operator, where she remained 25 years. She obtained another job in the textile industry which required repetitive hand movements, following which she became an entrepreneur, operating a small grocery for three years. She testified that the grocery business also required repetitive movements. After her entreprenurial stint was over, she obtained a job as a school bus driver for ten years, followed by a series of three jobs in the textile industry, the final of which was with the defendant which, we infer, was of short duration. While employed by Easyware (the second of these employers after her bus- driver job) she had a successful carpal tunnel release performed on her right hand. 2
Lawrence County Workers Compensation Panel 04/25/97
Carolyn F. Humphries v. KFC USA, Inc .
01S01-9607-CH-00147
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge James L. Weatherford
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Robert S. Brandt,
This case is before the Court upon the entire record, including the order of referral to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel, and the Panel's Memorandum Opinion setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law, which are incorporated herein by reference.
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/25/97
Carolyn F. Humphries v. KFC USA, Inc .
O1S01-9607-CH-00147
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge James L. Weatherford
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Robert S. Brandt,
This case is before the Court upon the entire record, including the order of referral to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel, and the Panel's Memorandum Opinion setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law, which are incorporated herein by reference.
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/25/97
Brunswick Marine v. Kenneth W. Miller
01S01-9605-CV-00099
Authoring Judge: William H. Inman, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon.
Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 04/25/97
Carolyn Marie Drake v. David Carl Drake
03A01-9610-CV-00312
Authoring Judge: HERSCHEL P. FRANKS, J.
Trial Court Judge: HON. ROBERT M. SUMMITT
Petitioner and Respondent are sister and brother, and the Trial Court issued an order of protection in response2 to the petition filed, following an abbreviated trial. On appeal, respondent insists the Trial Court did not have jurisdiction pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated _36-3-61, et seq., or that the Court refused to permit respondent to present his evidence.
Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 04/24/97
State of Tennessee v. Nathan Allen Callahan
03C01-9507-CC-00203
Authoring Judge: David H. Welles, Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. R. Jerry Beck
This is an appeal as of right pursuant to Rule 3, Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Defendant, Nathan Allen Callahan, was convicted by a Sullivan County jury of one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder, respectively, for the shooting deaths of his mother and younger sister. The jury set punishment for the first-degree murder conviction at life imprisonment and fined the Defendant $47,. for the count of second- degree murder. The trial court ordered twenty-two years imprisonment on the conviction for second-degree murder to be served concurrently with the life sentence.
Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 04/24/97
Johnson v. Goodwill
03S01-9610-CV-00101
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. James B. Scott, Jr.
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The appeal has resulted from the action of the trial court in dismissing the employee's claim for benefits. The Circuit Judge found plaintiff had failed to establish her injury was caused by an accident which arose out of and in the course of her employment. The sole issue on appeal is whether the evidence preponderates against the conclusion of the trial court. Plaintiff, Joy G. Johnson, testified on October 2, 1993, she stepped into a drainage hole while performing her work-related duties. She reported the incident to several management representatives and signed an accident report which indicated she did not receive any treatment for an injury. She did not miss any work and did not see a doctor until July 1994. Her family doctor then referred her to Dr. Gregory M. Mathien, an orthopedic surgeon. She saw Dr. Mathien on September 15, 1994, which was almost a year after the incident at work. In giving a history, she said she fell about a year earlier and had a second fall about eight months earlier. She never indicated either fall occurred at work. Dr. Mathien's testimony was by deposition and his diagnosis was a torn meniscus with secondary tendinitis. He said the articular cartilage lesion was not work-related but was due to the degenerative process. As to the torn meniscus, he testified causation was hard to say; she only told him she had pain about two and one-half months prior to seeing him, and he could not determine which fall caused the problem or if either event was the cause. Dr. Mathien performed surgery and continued to see her saying the result was not as good as expected. He did not assess any medical impairment as he had no reason to do so. The record indicates plaintiff incurred substantial medical expenses and all bills were submitted to her husband's medical insurance carrier. No medical expenses were ever submitted to defendant employer. She also admitted she never 2
Johnson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/23/97
Stone Container Corporation v. Neil Griffith
03S01-9609-CV-00094
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. William L. Brown,
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The employer, Stone Container Corporation, has perfected this appeal from a decision of the trial court to award the employee, Neil Griffith, 1% permanent partial disability benefits to the body as a whole. Temporary total disability benefits were paid until the employee returned to work during January, 1995, and the payment of medical expenses is also not an issue. The employer insists the evidence preponderates against a finding of permanent injury or disability. The short record contains the oral testimony of the employee, and the depositions of three orthopedic surgeons. Employee Griffith had worked for Stone Container Corporation for about twenty-five years when he sustained a work-related injury on November 28, 1994. On this day he was reaching down to pick up a heavy pallet when he felt pain across the top of his shoulder. The next morning he had pain in his left arm and was hospitalized a few days to determine if he was having or had a heart attack. Testing for this condition was negative and he was released. He first came under the care of Dr. Lester F. Littell III, who was one of the three designated physicians of the employer. He found he had sustained a work- related injury but was of the opinion it would eventually clear up. He found no permanent impairment and did not place any restrictions on the patient. Becoming dissatisfied with Dr. Littell, employee Griffith requested the company to furnish another physician for a second opinion. He was then seen by Dr. Neil H. Spitalny who found mild disc bulging at several levels as reported on a MRI report and said this was consistent with normal degenerative aging process of the cervical spine and discs. He was of the opinion there was no medical impairment. We do note his testimony indicates he saw him again on January 22, 1996, when he was still complaining of left shoulder pain and discomfort in the neck musculature. 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 04/23/97
Blanken v. Philips
03S01-9607-CV-00081
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge:
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Plaintiff injured her left arm at work on February 28, 1992. W hen surgery did not improve the condition or decrease her pain she became markedly depressed. The trial court found that plaintiff's depression was related to her arm injury and awarded her 1 percent permanent total disability based on the two conditions. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff injured her left arm gradually at work in February, March and April of 1992. She was left hand dominant and her work required that she use a staple gun repetitively. Dr. Joseph C. DeFiore, Jr., orthopedic surgeon, treated her left elbow and shoulder from April 13, 1992 through January 24, 1994. When Dr. DeFiore first saw plaintiff, he found tenderness over the left lateral epicondyle area and in her left shoulder, with no specific abnormalities on x- ray. He diagnosed tendinitis of the left shoulder and lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow. Plaintiff also reported being extremely depressed, primarily because of the elbow problem. A work-related low back injury contributed to her depression, but we do not consider that injury, which was non-suited at trial. Dr. DeFiore advised plaintiff to avoid use of a staple gun at work, which he thought was causing some of her irritation, gave her a TENS unit for pain control and prescribed exercises. Plaintiff returned to work with the limitation that she do only nonrepetitive, non-overuse work with the left upper extremity. The work she was assigned, though much less harmful according to Dr. DeFiore, still required her to constantly reach with her left hand and arm in order to spray television cabinets with an air pressure gun. Plaintiff continued to have pain in the elbow and therefore had cortisone injections on three occasions, with no improvement. Bone scan found arthritis in the shoulder joint. Plaintiff was deposed by defendant on October 19, 1992, and it was apparently here that both parties' counsel learned from plaintiff about antidepressant medications given to her by her family physician on a continuing basis since her first 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 04/23/97
Charlotte Freeman v. Cpq Colorchrome, Inc.
03S01-9608-Ch-00089
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: EARL H. HENLEY, Chancellor
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. While lifting a machine at work, plaintiff heard or felt a "pop" in her neck and experienced a slight tingling in her hands. Because she felt little or no pain at that time, she did not immediately suspect that the "pop" and the tingling might be symptomatic of serious injury. When she developed pain in the neck a few days later after sleeping on the arm, she sought medical care and found that she had herniated two cervical disks. The trial court found the plaintiff had proved that her neck injury was caused by her work and awarded her 4 percent permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The defendant appeals, insisting that plaintiff has not met her burden of proving that her work caused injury. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff, 46 years old with a G.E.D. diploma, began working for defendant's predecessor in 1986. While refinishing photo negatives on February 15, 1994, she lifted a 29-pound machine and felt or heard a "pop" in her neck and a slight tingling in her right arm. She didn't have much, if any, pain, and didn't think much about it. Plaintiff went to the work site within the next three days and, in conversation with her supervisor and two other employees, said that she thought her injury was caused by lifting the machine at work. The supervisor, Kathy Quintard, who was in- and-out of the room during this conversation, thought this was only "chit-chat" among friends. Although she heard plaintiff discuss the injury, she did not consider this to be her official notice of work-related injury, and so Ms. Quintard did not make a report of it. The evidence indicates Ms. Quintard thought that unless plaintiff came to her office and made an "official" statement, she would not be entitled to workers' compensation coverage. On February 17, 1994, plaintiff awoke with arm pain after having slept on the arm. She went to an emergency clinic that day and again on February 2, 1994, 2
Hamblen County Workers Compensation Panel 04/22/97
Brackins v. Sevier
03S01-9607-CV-00083
Authoring Judge: John K. Byers, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Ben Hooper, Ii,
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial judge found that plaintiff was 5% permanently partially disabled as a result of his work-related injury by accident. He further found that the workers' compensation carrier was entitled to a credit of $14,43.64, plaintiff's net recovery for his third-party tort settlement. He held that he could not exclude recovery for loss of consortium from plaintiff's net recovery because no specific amount of that recovery was apportioned to loss of consortium. He limited the recovery for medical expenses to plaintiff's out-of-pocket expenses. He granted the plaintiff's attorney a 2% fee from the medical expenses awarded and stated that plaintiff's attorney may have to look to plaintiff's attorney in the third-party action for the rest of his fee. The plaintiff below appeals the trial court's judgment raising the following issues: 1) Whether the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that plaintiff retains 5% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. 2) Whether the trial court erred in allowing the defendant a credit against the portion of the third-party tort recovery which is attributable to plaintiff's spouse's recovery for loss of consortium. 3) Whether the trial court erred by not crediting the full amount of medical expenses against the net recovery because the plaintiff's group hospitalization insurer had not filed a subrogation claim. 4) Whether the trial court should have required the defendant to pay the plaintiff's attorney's fees. We affirm the judgment of the trial court except as to the issue of medical expenses, for which the defendant is liable in full. The plaintiff was injured in a car accident on August 1, 199 while he was traveling in the course of his employment with the Sevier County Board of Education. The plaintiff, who was 53 years of age at the time of trial, continues to work for the 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 04/22/97
Smallman v. Shelby
03S01-9607-CV-00079
Authoring Judge: John K. Byers, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Ben K. Wexler,
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court below awarded plaintiff 17% permanent partial disability to each arm. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that the evidence preponderates in favor of a higher award. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff, who was 44 years of age at the time of the trial, has an eighth- grade education. Her previous work history has been mostly in factory assembly work. She has worked as an upholsterer of furniture for the defendant since 1984. She testified that her work requires her to pad the furniture and then cover it with fabric of some sort, which requires her to constantly pull the fabric and tack it into place with a staple gun. In the spring and summer of 1994, plaintiff began to notice some pain and swelling in her wrists and hands. She reported her problems to her employer in August and her employer referred her to Dr. Wayne L. McLemore, an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. McLemore diagnosed plaintiff with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome related to her work activities. He attempted conservative treatment but that was unsuccessful. He then performed bilateral carpal tunnel releases with satisfactory results. He assigned plaintiff a four percent permanent impairment to each upper extremity. He testified that he did not impose any restrictions upon the plaintiff because he did not want to make it difficult for her to return to work. However, he opined that she did have some restrictions: she should avoid repetitive pulling and wrist-bending activities, heavy lifting and vibrating tools. After plaintiff returned to work in February 1995, she returned to him on July 25, 1995 with complaints of continued pain and swelling. He testified that he advised her to change her employment if it became a regular problem for her. Plaintiff's attorney referred her to Dr. Gilbert Hyde, also an orthopaedic surgeon, for an independent medical evaluation. He felt that she had continued 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 04/21/97
James Clifford Tatum v. Methodist Health Systems, et al
02S01-9609-CH-00079
Authoring Judge: Leonard W. Martin, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Martin, Judge
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225 (e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The director of the Workers' Compensation Division of Tennessee Department of Labor, as trustee for the Second Injury Fund (Second Injury Fund), appeals from the decision of the trial court. The court approved, over the objection of the Second Injury Fund, a settlement agreement between the employee, James Clifford Tatum, and the employer, Methodist Health Systems (Methodist Hospital of Dyersburg, Inc.), limiting the employer's liability to benefits based on 31 per cent (31%) permanent partial disability to the whole body. The claim against the Second Injury Fund was reserved until trial. The trial of the case was between the employee and the Second InjuryFund. Subsequently, at trial, the trial court found the employee to be permanently and totally disabled and held the Second Injury Fund liable for 6 per cent (6%) of that total disability. Because the court erred in approving the settlement over the objectionof the Second Injury Fund, the panel concludes that both judgments should be set aside, and the case remanded for a new trial on all issues. The trial court recognized its error and stated in its memorandum opinion of April 29, 1996, as follows: "This settlement was approved over the objection of the Fund. In retrospect, the Court should not have approved the settlement over the objection of the Fund, but should have tried both claims together." However, the trial court apparently believed that it had cured its error. We conclude otherwise. In a very recent case decided by the Supreme Court on December 23, 1996, the court reasoned as follows: Here, the trial court approved a settlement concerning the 2
Dyer County Workers Compensation Panel 04/17/97