Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 12/02/2016
Format: 12/02/2016
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
Jack v. Delany
02S01-9608-CH-00073
Authoring Judge: Leonard W. Martin, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. J. Steven Stafford,
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. In this appeal, the employer questions the award of permanent partial disability benefits as being excessive. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be modified. The employee, Scott, is forty-seven (47) years old, and has an eighth (8th) grade education. He has farmed and worked at a cotton gin. He has no specialized skills or training. He has an I.Q. of sixty-five (65) and a severe speech impediment. He worked for the defendant employer for twenty-two (22) years. During the course of his employment, he has performed various jobs and was operating a scrubber at the time of his injury. The employee was injured at work on June 4, 1994, when he was getting off of the scrubber and fell. He testified that he hurt his neck, back, and left shoulder. He was first seen by Doctor Michael Heck, who prescribed medication and returned him to work on light duty. He was then seen by Doctor Stewart, who returned him to regular duty with the defendant. Doctor Riley Jones treated the plaintiff and opined that he had a 1 per cent (1%) anatomical impairment to the left upper extremity. Dr. Jones gave him no impairment rating for his back and sent him back to regular duty. Dr. Robert Paul Christopher saw the plaintiff on July 24, 1995, for an independent medical evaluation. He opined that the plaintiff had a 1 per cent (1%) impairment to the left upper extremity, a 6 per cent (6%) impairment as a result of injury to the cervical spine, translating to a combined rating of 12 per cent (12%) to the body as a whole. 2
Scott County Workers Compensation Panel 04/17/97
Harold E. Mooney v. Brecon Knitting Mills, et al
02S01-9610-CV-00094
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Kay S. Robilio,
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court inaccordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer and its insurer contend the claimant's injury did not arise out of the employment and the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. The claimant, Mooney, is sixty-six years old and has three years of college and some vocational training. His primary vocation has been that of a traveling salesman. At the time of the accident, he was employed as regional sales manager for the employer and used his car to call on customers. On or about May 2, 1993, he was involved in an accident and received a blow to his chest. It is undisputed that he was on his employer's business at the time of the accident. A cardiologist diagnosed his injury as undiagnosed coronary artery disease exacerbated by chest wall trauma. When conservative care failed to produce the desired result, surgery was performed. The operating surgeon assigned a permanent impairment rating of from thirty to fifty percent and advised the claimant to retire. A vocational expert opined the claimant had a vocational opportunity decrease of ninety percent. He has not returned to work. The parties agreed to bifurcate the trial. After the first bifurcated trial, the trial judge found the claimant's injury to be compensable. After the second bifurcated trial, another trial judge awarded permanent partial disability benefits based on seventy-five percent to the body as a whole. Appellate review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings of fact, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(2). Under the Tennessee Workers' Compensation Law, injuries by accident arising out of and in the course of employment are compensable. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-12(a)(5). An injury is compensable, even though the claimant may have been suffering from a serious pre-existing condition or disability, if a work-connected accident can be fairly said to be a contributing cause of such injury. An employer takes an employee as he is and assumes the risk of having a weakened condition aggravated or exacerbated by an injury which might not affect a normal person. Harlan v. McClellan, 572 S.W.2d 641 (Tenn. 1978). 2
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 04/17/97
Hubert Holcomb, Jr. v. Aetna Life & Casualty Co.
02S01-9610-CH-00091
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. William Michael Maloan,
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court inaccordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer's insurer questions the allowance of certain credits to the Second Injury Fund (the Fund). As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. It is undisputed that the employee or claimant, Holcomb, is permanently and totally disabled from a compensable injury by accident, that his compensation rate is $294. per week and that the maximum total benefit in effect on the date of the injury was $117,6. ($294. x 4 weeks). It is also undisputed he has received from the employer's insurer temporary total and temporary partial disability benefits totaling $32,121.82 and permanent disability benefits totaling $11,76.. From a previous compensable injury, the claimant was awarded permanent partial disability benefits equating to an award based on 21.875 percent to the body as a whole, or 87.5 weeks. Thus, under Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-28(b)1, the Fund's maximum liability is $294. for 87.5 weeks ($25,725.5), less any credit to which it may be entitled for payments already made by the employer or its insurer. The trial court gave the Fund credit against its liability for $25,725. of temporary disability benefits, thus holding the Fund had no further liability. It allowed the employer's insurer credit against any further liability for disability payments already made in excess of that number. Conclusions of law are subject to de novo review without any presumption of correctness. Presley v. Bennett, 86 S.W.2d 857 (Tenn. 1993). Compensable disabilities are divided into four separate classifications: (1) temporary total disability, (2) temporary partial disability, (3) 1 T.C.A. 5-6-28(b)(1)(A) In cases where the injured employee has received or will receive a workers' compensation award or awards for permanent disability to the body as a whole, and the combination of such awards equals or exceeds one hundred percent (1%) permanent disability to the body as a whole, the employee shall not be entitled to receive from the employer or its insurance carrier any compensation for permanent disability to the body as a whole that would be in excess of one hundred percent (1%) permanent disability to the body as a whole, after combining awards. (B) Benefits which may be due the employee for permanent disability to the body as a whole in excess of one hundred percent (1%) permanent disability to the body as a whole, after combining awards, shall be paid by the second injury fund. (Emphasis supplied) 2
Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 04/17/97
Pamela Sue Higgins v. Angelica Corporation
02S01-9605-CV-00050
Authoring Judge: Leonard W. Martin, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. C. Creed Mcginley
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. Defendant appeals from the trial court's award of 45 per cent (45%) permanent partial vocational disability of each arm, following surgery on each wrist for carpal tunnel syndrome. Defendant raises three (3) issues, that the plaintiff's injuries are not causually related to her employment and therefore, not compensable; that the plaintiff did not give proper notice as required by Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-21; and that the preponderance of the evidence does not support the trial judge's finding that the plaintiff suffered a 45 per cent (45%) permanent partial vocational disability to each arm. The panel has concluded that the judgment of the trial court should be affirmed. The employee, Ms. Pamela Sue Higgins, is thirty-eight (38) years old, quit school in the eighth (8th) grade, and she has performed sewing work for different manufacturers for twenty (2) years. Ms. Higgins began her employment with Angelica on January 14, 1991. Shortly after going to work for Angelica she was seen by Doctor James H. Thomas, a family practitioner, with the specific complaint that her right wrist had hurt for five (5) days. Approximately two and one-half (2 l/2) months later she returned to Doctor Thomas with the same complaint. Doctor Thomas soon concluded that her problem was carpal tunnel syndrome in nature and referred her to Doctor L. David Johnson, an orthopaedic surgeon, for treatment. After treating her conservatively, excluding other possible causes of her symptoms, and based upon electrodiagnostic studies performed by Doctor Ron Bingham, on May 13, 1991, Doctor Johnson diagnosed her as having moderate carpal tunnel syndrome on the right, and severe carpal tunnel syndrome on the left. Doctor Johnson subsequently performed carpal tunnel surgeries on both right and left wrists. She was also seen by Doctors Cohn and Cramer, and Pechacek, in consultation, in the process of eliminating other causes for her symptoms and confirming her diagnosis. Doctor 2
Hardin County Workers Compensation Panel 04/17/97
Anita Gardner v. World Color Press, Inc.
02S01-9609-CH-00081
Authoring Judge: Leonard W. Martin, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Joe G. Riley,
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 issue presented is whether the trial court erred in finding that the plaintiff sustained a 2 per cent (2%) permanent partial disability to both arms. The standard of review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of the correctness of the finding, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); T.C.A. Section 5-6-225(e)(2). The panel finds that the evidence does not preponderate against the finding of the trial court and concludes that the judgment of the trial court should be affirmed. The employee, Anita Gardner, is thirty (3) years old and has a tenth (1th) grade education. She has obtained her GED and is currently enrolled in Dyersburg State Community College intending to become a nurse. She has worked for McDonalds Restaurant, Taco Casa Restaurant, Roseoco Gas Station and Doubleday Book Company. She went to work for World Color Press, Inc., in 1987. World Color Press prints, assembles and ships magazines. During much of her employment, she worked twelve (12) hours per day, seven (7) days a week. Her duties involved the use of her hands and wrists in a constant, fast paced, repetitive manner for long periods of time. In May of 1994, the plaintiff injured her left wrist (she is left handed), while using a manual banding device in the shipping department. In August of 1994, she began having trouble with her right wrist while working in the quality control 2
Dyer County Workers Compensation Panel 04/17/97
Norma Gail Flowers v. Emerson Motor Co.
02S01-9609-CH-00083
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. George R. Ellis,
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court inaccordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer, Emerson Motor Company, contends the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive. The panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. The claimant, Flowers, is 43 years old and a high school graduate. She has a certificate as a nursing assistant, but no other vocational training or education. She has worked continuously for the employer since 1972, in a variety of jobs requiring repetitive use of her hands. On December 6, 1993, the claimant slipped and fell at work, landing on the palms of her hands. Although her wrists and hands had bothered her before the fall, she was not disabled and had not seen a doctor. Following the fall, she saw Dr. Ronald Bingham, who ordered NCS/EMG studies and diagnosed bilateral carpaltunnel syndrome, moderate on the left and moderate to moderately severe on the right. Another doctor diagnosed, in addition to bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, carpometacarpal subluxation and arthritis of the right thumb. Her carpal tunnel syndrome was found to be caused by repetitive use of her hands and wrists at work and the subluxation caused and the arthritis aggravated by the fall at work. Dr. Bourland assigned a permanent impairment rating of 15.8% to the claimant's right arm and none to the left. Dr. Joseph Boals assigned permanent impairment ratings of 2% to each arm. She is unable to perform her former duties for the employer and has pain and numbness in both hands. She cannot operate a keyboard. One vocational expert estimated her industrial disability at 6-65%; another opined she would be eligible for fewer than 25% of all available jobs. The chancellor awarded permanent partial disability benefits based on 5% to both arms. Appellate review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings of fact, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(2). The extent of an injured worker's disability is an issue of fact. Jaske v. Murray Ohio Mfg. Co., 75 S.W.2d 15 (Tenn. 1988). The extent of an injured worker's vocational disability is a factual 2
Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/17/97