Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 09/19/2014
Format: 09/19/2014
Mary Benson v. The Kroger Company and Cna Insurance Company
02S01-9601-CH-00002
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Neal Small,
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 (1) the award of permanent disability benefits based on one hundred percent to both arms is excessive, (2) it was error to award certain medical expenses, (3) it was error to award discretionary costs, and (4) it was error to award judgment against both defendants. The employee contends by cross appeal (1) the trial court erred in limiting the recovery for permanent partial disability to four hundred weeks, (2) the trial court erred in its award of temporary total disability benefits, (3) the trial court erred in allowing the employer credit for temporary total disability benefits paid, and (4) the appeal is frivolous. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. The employee or claimant, Benson, is 53 years old with a high school education and experience as a meat wrapper in grocery stores. She has no skills or training. She gradually developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome while so employed at Kroger. She had carpal tunnel surgery on her left arm in November of 1992 and returned to work at Kroger in January of 1993 as a meat wrapper. She continued to have problems with her hands and became disabled to perform her duties, which included heavy lifting and repetitive use of both hands in a cold environment. Medical benefits were discontinued in July of 1994. She retains a ten percent permanent impairment to her left arm and twenty percent impairment to her right arm, superimposed upon a pre-existing vascular disorder. As a result of the combination of the compensable injury and pre-existing condition, she is medically restricted from repetitive use of the hands, heavy lifting or working in a cold environment. The trial court awarded permanent partial benefits for four hundred weeks, based on one hundred percent permanent disability to both arms, medical expenses of two unauthorizedphysicians and futuremedical benefits. 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). Where the trial judge has seen and heard the witnesses, especially if issues of credibility are involved, considerable deference must be accorded those circumstances on review. Humphrey v. David Witherspoon, Inc., 734 S.W.2d 315 (Tenn. 1987). 2
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 11/18/96
Clint Evard v. Saturn Corporation
01S01-9601-CV-00019
Authoring Judge: Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Jim T. Hamilton
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 of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the claimant contends that the trail court erred by averaging two permanent partial disability rating for two scheduled members. Claimant also contends that the final anatomical impairment award was inadequate. The panel concludes that the methodology utilized by the trial court in arriving at the percentage of permanent partial disability was proper; however, the panel is of the opinion the final award was inadequate. In accordance with T.C.A. 56-225(e), the standard of review in this case is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings. It is the claimant's burden to show by a preponderance that the evidence is otherwise. The claimant developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of his work at Saturn where his job involves repetitive grasping of small metal clips which are place on a car door as it passes along the assembly line. When he began installing around 6, clips/ day, his hands began to swell so severely that on one occasion he could not tell that he had cut his hand. Subsequently, he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel release surgery was performed on his right wrist. The claimant filed this workers compensation lawsuit on February 27, l995. At trial in l995, the trial court awarded the claimant a l% permanent partial disability to his right arm and a 5% permanent partial disability to his left arm which at his compensation rate of $382.79 per week amounts to $14,354.3. The percentage disabilities were established by one of the claimant's doctors, Dr. Gaw. The claimant argues that the trial court erred in assessing a percentage of disability to each arm separately under T.C.A. 5-6-27(3)(A)(ii)(m) rather than as one scheduled injury under T.C.A. 2
Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 11/14/96
Mary L. Brents v. Batesville Casket Company, Inc. and Lumbermen's Mutual Company
01S01-9508-CV-00141
Authoring Judge: Jerry L. Smith, Special Judg
Trial Court Judge: Hon. John W . Rollins, Judge
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeal Panel of the Supreme Court for hearing andreporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. See Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6- 225(e)(3)(199). Appellant Mary L. Brents presents the following issues for review: (1) whether the trial court erred in finding that attorneys' fees for both accrued and future benefits could not be paid solely from the future benefits award and (2) whether the trial court erred in reducing the amount of her weekly benefit payments by twenty percent, thereby reflecting the advance, lump-sum payment of attorneys' fees. After a review of the record, We affirm the judgment of the trial court. I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND On February 13, 1992, Appellant filed a workers' compensation action against Batesville Casket Company. On March 14, 1994, following a hearing, the trial court found that Appellant was due a fifty-five percent permanent partial disability award for a work-related injury that occurred in October of 1991. The trial court indicated that, had proper notice been given, Appellant would have also been due a fifteen percent permanent partial disability for a work-related injury that occurred in March of 1992. On February 9, 1995, this Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court regarding the October, 1991, injury and reversed the judgment of the trial court regarding the March 1992 injury, modifying Appellant's award to include the additional fifteen percent permanent partial disability. On March 13, 1995, Appellant received three checks pursuant to the decision of this Court. These checks represented (1) payment for all then- accrued and outstandingincome benefits, totaling $16, 211.13, (2) payment for attorneys' fees 2
Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 11/14/96
Charles Tolan v. Ed Brown
03S01-9603-CH-00027
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Earl H. Henley,
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 of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The issue in this appeal is whether the defendant-appellee, Brown, is a statutory or principal employer of the plaintiff- appellant or claimant. The panel concludes that the judgment should be affirmed. Brown is the owner of rental property, including the Guthrie Mini Warehouse in Cleveland. He is not a builder or general contractor. In the late spring of 1994, he contracted with Kevin Eason to replace the roof on the warehouse. Among those employed by or on behalf of Eason to do the work was Charles Tolan. By the terms of the contract, Brown paid Eason $5,. and furnished the material. There was no time limit on when the work was to be completed and Brown exercised no control over the work of Eason's employee's, including Tolan. Brown did not provide the tools for the work, except one ladder. At one point, it became apparent that the work was not being done properly, which Brown pointed out to Eason. Eason corrected the problem. On July 12, 1993, Tolan was injured when he fell from the roof of the warehouse. He has sued for workers' compensation benefits. After a trial on the merits, the chancellor found that Eason and some other defendants, but not Brown, were liable to the claimant for workers' 2
Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 11/05/96
James Raymond Casey v. The Travelers Insurance Company
02S01-9605-CH-00047
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., 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's insurer contends (1) the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive, (2) the award of temporary total disability benefits is excessive and (3) the trial court erred in granting plaintiff's motion for discretionary costs. As discussed below, the panel concludes the judgment should be modified. The employee or claimant, Casey, is 29 years old and has a tenth grade education. His working experience consists of light to medium manual labor. On October 11, 1994, his right hand caught in some belts at work and was injured. He continued working for approximately one month. He was treated by an orthopedic surgeon beginning on December 22, 1994. The treating doctor diagnosed a rupture of the extensor tendon of the last joint of the claimant's right little finger, swelling of the PIP joint of the ring and middle fingers of the same hand and decreased range of hand motion, for all of which he prescribed a splint for the little finger and range of motion exercises for the hand. In time the swelling disappeared and he recovered full range of motion in the hand. He improved to the extent that he could have returned to work on January 13, 1995. The doctor assigned a permanent partial impairment rating of eight percent to the right little finger because the claimant "lacked about thirty degrees of extension of the DIP joint of the right little finger." The doctor's testimony also included the following questions and answers: Q. ... in your opinion, he did not sustain any permanent impairment with regard to his hand or to the arm? A. No, Ma'am. Q. Okay. In your opinion, ... would the plaintiff have necessarily had any problems in going back to work and using his hand? 2
Crockett County Workers Compensation Panel 11/05/96
Hazel Maness Flatt v. The Insurance Mart, Inc.,
02S01-9601-CH-00007
Authoring Judge: Hewitt P. Tomlin, Jr., Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Joe C. Morris,
This workers' compensation appeal was heard by the Special Workers' Compensation Panel in accordance with provisions of T.C.A. _ 5-6-225(e)(3). We have by this opinion reported our findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Supreme Court. Hazel Maness Flatt ("plaintiff") was employed by Gary Wright and his sister Nita Middleton to care for their mother, Lorene F. Wright, at her residence in Chester County. As part of her employment, plaintiff lived in Ms. Wright's home from Monday through Friday. Other sitters provided care for Ms. Wright on weekends. Plaintiff's job duties included fixing meals, cleaning the house, sweeping, vacuuming, washing clothes, taking Ms. Wright on errands, and generally just watching after her. On about October 5, 199, plaintiff injured her back while assisting Ms. Wright into plaintiff's car. The record reflects that Gary Wright served as president of The Insurance Mart, Inc. ("defendant"), a company engaged in the sale of automobile insurance in Nashville. Wright and his wife were the sole shareholders of the defendant company. His sister, Nita Middleton, was an employee of defendant. Plaintiff was paid her weekly checks from defendant's payroll for her services to Ms. Wright. Her W-2 Wage and Tax Statement for 199 listed defendant as her employer. However, defendant listed plaintiff regularly on its Non-Employee Compensation Report. For these apparent reasons, plaintiff filed suit against defendant in the Chancery Court of Chester County. Following a bench trial, the chancell or denied plaintiff's claim for workers' compensation benefits on the grounds that (1) plaintiff was a domestic servant and not an employee of defendant, and (2) that she was also an independent contractor. This appeal followed. 2
Chester County Workers Compensation Panel 11/01/96
Allen v. Jones
02S01-9512-CV-00127
Authoring Judge: Cornelia A. Clark, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. James M. Tharpe
This worker's compensation appeal has been referred to the special worker's compensation appeals panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _50-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 11/01/96
Brian Matthew Woosley v. Townsend Electric Company
02S01-9505-CH-00040
Authoring Judge: Janice M. Holder, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Joe C. Mo Rris
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Our scope of review of findings of fact by the trial court is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-22 5(e)(2). The sole question raised on appeal is whether the evidence preponderates against the chancellor's holding that the employee's injury arose out of the course and scope of his employment. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the trial court. The plaintiff, Brian M. Woosley ("Woosley"), was employed as an electrician's he lper for To wnsend Electric. Du ring the sev eral month s of his employment with Townsend, he worked at a series of job sites. The method by which he would arrive at the site varied. For two of the jobs, he met the foreman at the Townsend "shop"on the first day of the job; thereafter he drove his own vehicle to the job site. At a third job location, he met the foreman at the Townsend shop and rode with him to the job site. While at the shop, he sometimes loaded material for use on the job. At a fourth site, the foreman drove to Woos ley's home an d transporte d him to the job. Woo sley was nev er paid until he arrived at the job site and he was never reimbursed for transportation expenses when he drove his own vehicle. On July 13, 1992, Woosley was working at a fifth job in Brownsville when he was injured en route to the job site. For the two weeks prior to his injury, he met Harold Matlock ("Matlock"), the job foreman, at the shop each day and the two went to the Brownsville job together. While working in Brownsville, Woosley was not required to pick up or load materials; he received no instructions 2
Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/96
Barbara Wallace v. Cadillac Curtain Company
02S01-9510-CH-00099
Authoring Judge: Cornelia A. Clark, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. John Hill Chisholm
This worker's compensationappeal has been referred to the special worker's 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. Trial in this matter was conducted February 9, 1995. On May 22, 1995, the Chancellor entered a final judgment denying compensation to plaintiff and dismissing her lawsuit.
Tipton County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/96
Charles Leroy Stafford v. Mid-America Corporation and Larry Brinton, Jr.
03S01-9512-CH-00132
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Frederick D.
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 of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The issue presented by this appeal involves the extent of the claimant's permanent disability. The panel concludes thejudgment should be modified as provided below. The employee or claimant, Stafford, is forty-eight with a ninth grade education. On December 23, 1993, he suffered a compensable injury to his neck and arm, for which he received medical treatment and lost time from work. The treating physician assigned a permanent impairment rating of 3% to the whole body and released him to return to work in August of 1994 with no restrictions. From a previous injury, the claimant had received an award based on ninety-five percent to the body as a whole. The chancellor awarded permanent partial disability benefits on the basis of five percent to the body as a whole, reasoning that the claimant had not yet become rehabilitated from his previous injury. Appellate review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of the correctness of the findings of the trial court, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(2). Conclusions of law are subject to de novo review without any presumption of correctness. Presley v. Bennett, 86 S.W.2d 857 (Tenn. 1993). This tribunal is required to conduct an independent examination of the record to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies.
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/96
Harley R. Rucker v. Rockwood Electric Utilities
03S01-9511-CH-00127
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Frank V. Williams,
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 was injured when he fell and hit his arm on a buzz saw while cutting trees along utility lines as an employee of Woodland Tree Service, which had a contract to cut the trees for Rockwood Electric Utilities. The trial judge dismissed plaintiff's complaint, finding that Rockwood Electric Utilities was not plaintiff's statutory employer under TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6- 113. However, he found plaintiff to have sustained a 45% permanent partial disability to his right hand. We reverse the judgment and remand the case to the trial court. Plaintiff was hired by Woodland Tree Service to help fulfill Woodland's contract with Rockwood Electric Utilities. The agreement between Woodland Tree Service and Rockwood Electric Utilities was in the form of a written contract which was introduced at trial. Plaintiff reported every morning to Rockwood Electric Utilities where he met with Don White, a supervisor at Rockwood, to learn whether he should continue working on the present job or if he needed to work on some emergency project. He would also pick up a "bucket truck" owned by Rockwood to be used in cutting trees. Woodland provided all of the other equipment used by its employees. Occasionally, Rockwood supervisors would come to the site where Woodland employees were working to check on the progress of the work, occasionally telling the employees to hurry up or moving them elsewhere to a "hot spot." Woodland had absolute authority to hire and fire its own employees. Under the contract between the parties, Rockwood reserved the right to provide equipment and materials at a lower cost if those provided by Woodland were too high. Woodland paid its employees directly but according to a schedule of wages set by Rockwood. Woodland was required to notify Rockwood of changes in wage rates. Under their contract, Rockwood reserved the right to inspect Woodland's work and audit its books. The contract also provided that Woodland employees could not enter the area where power lines were located unless 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/96
William O. Worley, Jr. v. Tecumseh Products Company
01S01-9509-CV-00160
Authoring Judge: Robert L. Childers, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Buddy D. Perry,
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. In this case, the trial court awarded 45% permanent partial disability to the right arm. Defendant contends that the evidence does not support the percentage of disability awarded and requests that this court reduce and amend the judgment of the trial court accordingly. The Defendant also contends that the trial court erred in accrediting the testimony of Plaintiff's expert witness over the testimony of the treating physician. The final issue is whether the trial court erred in awarding discretionary costs for the deposition of Plaintiff's expert medical witness. The Defendant also raises the issue of whether the trial court erred in awarding a lump sum. As the benefits have now accrued, this issue is moot. On June 19, 1992, Plaintiff injured his right arm and wrist while working on a machine. Plaintiff is 48 years old and has a high school education. His work experience consists of working in the parts department, as a mechanic, as a tool and die worker, on a surveying crew, as a fire fighter, as a guard, and as a water pipeline repairer. Each of these jobs required heavy manual labor and the use of Plaintiff's arms and hands. Plaintiff had been employed at Tecumseh for approximately a year and a half when he sustained the injury. Dr. L. L. Carter, Jr. treated the Plaintiff after he was injured. Dr. Carter first examined Plaintiff on July 7, 1992. Dr. Carter testified, by deposition, that the nerve conduction tests showed elbow nerve and wrist nerve damage. Initially, Dr. Carter treated this condition conservatively, with a wrist splint, with no improvement. On August 31, 1992, Dr. Carter performed ulnar nerve decompression and submuscular transposition. At the same time, carpal tunnel release in the right hand and a nerve graft to the neuroma on the right wrist were performed. Three days later, Plaintiff was told to return to light work. Plaintiff was returned to regular work on December 15, 1992. Dr. Carter did not see Plaintiff again until January 8, 1993, at the request of
Sequatchie County Workers Compensation Panel 10/25/96
Alva Marie Reynolds v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
01S01-9509-CH-00172
Authoring Judge: Erry L. Smith, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. John W. Rollins, Judge
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 5-6-225 (e)(3) for hearing and reporting findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Supreme Court. Alva Marie Reynolds, the plaintiff- employee, appeals the decision of the Coffee County Chancery Court denying her relief on her worker's compensation claim. On appeal, the sole issue is whether the trial court erred in finding that the plaintiff failed to carry the burden of proving that she sustained an injury arising out of her employment. The trial court found plaintiff 's injury was the result of a pre-existing idiopathic condition. On January 5, 1993, the plaintiff, who was at that time sixty-two years old, sustained an injury to her ankle when she fell at her place of employment, Wal- Mart. The plaintiff had worked at Wal-Mart in diverse capacities for eleven years before her accident, and at the time of her injury, she had been working in the fitting room area for a couple of years. In addition to monitoring the clothing which was brought in and out of the fitting room, she answered Wal-Mart's incoming calls, made announcements, and paged employees within the store. Regarding her fall, the plaintiff testified that, after being told to take a hurried break, she rushed out of the fitting room and fell at the point that the floor changed from carpet to tile. She testified that she had not previously experienced numbness in her legs nor had she ever fallen at work or home before this incident. The plaintiff worked the remainder of the day and did not see a doctor until the next day when her ankle was diagnosed as being broken. On cross-examination, the plaintiff acknowledged that in two depositions taken after the accident, she did not mention that she was in a hurry at the time that she fell. She explained that she did not remember this until later. However, in a deposition 2
Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 10/25/96