Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 09/23/2014
Format: 09/23/2014
Greene County, Tennessee v. Lisa Ward, Jarrod Ward and Jordan Ward
03S01-9510-CH-00116
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Dennis H. Inman
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. These cases were instituted by Greene County, Tennessee, plaintiff, against the dependents of William Guy Ward, deceased, and Robert John Desormeaux, deceased, defendants, to determine whether the deaths of the two individuals are compensable under the Workers' Compensation laws of our state. The trial court determined the claims were not compensable as their deaths did not arise out of and in the course of their employment. Defendants have appealed insisting the evidence preponderates against this finding. William Guy Ward and Robert John Desormeaux were part-time auxiliary officers of the Greene County Sheriff's Department. They died as a result of an airplane crash on the night of July 11, 1994, at about 11: p.m. The airplane was being operated by Officer Desormeaux and Officer W ard was riding as a passenger. The record indicates auxiliary officers received limited training as compared to the training of a regular certified deputy sheriff. As auxiliary officers, they were scheduled to work twice a month for 8-16 hours, and this assignment was on weekends because the Sheriff's Department was usually busier at this time during the week. Auxiliary officers were always assigned to work with a regular certified deputy sheriff on patrol and were paid $5. per hour when performing scheduled work. The evidence indicates an auxiliary officer could work at other times with permission but would not be compensated for this work activity. Officers Ward and Desormeaux had been auxiliary officers for about one year, and their work activity with the Sheriff's Department had been riding with and assisting a regular deputy on patrol. As auxiliary officers, they were bonded deputies. The Auxiliary Organization Manual Of The Greene County Sheriff's Department provided auxiliary personnel shall follow the direction of full-time 2
Greene County Workers Compensation Panel 10/15/96
Shelby Williams Industries v. Alton Sane
03S01-9601-CH-00004
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Dennis H. Inman,
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, Shelby Williams Industries, Inc., instituted suit against Defendant, Alton Sane, seeking a determination as to whether the defendant had sustained a work-related injury which was compensable. The Chancellor found the claim to be compensable and fixed defendant's permanent partial disability at fifty percent to the body as a whole. The employer has appealed insisting the evidence is not sufficient to support the award and that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's findings. The employee is forty years old and has a twelfth-grade education. He testified he sustained an injury on July 12, 1994, while assembling chair backs; he was using a two-wheel dolly and, as he rolled it, a chair frame started to slide off and he attempted to catch it with the dolly in one hand and the frame in the other hand; while in this position, he felt a jolt in his low back; the next morning his legs tingled, and there was a numb feeling. He was seen at the hospital emergency room and was released; he also saw the company physician and later an orthopedic surgeon; he returned to work on August 3, 1994. The employee told the court he was injured again on October 7, 1994, while doing the same type work; he said, while in a twisted position, he bent over to get a chair seat; as he was reaching for the seat, he sneezed, and it felt like he had been shot; he saw the company doctor again and the orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed the problem as a ruptured disc; surgery was performed during November, 1994; and he had not been released to return to work as of the date of the trial on August 31, 1995. Dr. William Foster, an orthopedic surgeon, testified by deposition and stated he saw defendant shortly after both the July and October incidents; his opinion in July was that he had suffered a lumbar strain with a possible ruptured dis,c but he did not do further testing as his patient seemed to improve and returned to work; he 2
Hamblen County Workers Compensation Panel 10/15/96
Vanessa Phillips v. Pennsylvania National Insurance Company
03S01-9512-CV-00128
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Ben W. 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. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer contends (1) that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that the employee suffered an injury by accident in the course of her employment, (2) that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that the employee's permanent impairment is causally related to her employment, (3) that the trial court erred in awarding medical expenses of an unauthorized provider, and (4) that the trial court abused its discretion with respect to the award of discretionary costs. The panel concludes that the judgment should be reversed, for the reasons set forth below. The employee or claimant, Vanessa Phillips, now Vanessa Dunkhase, is a thirty-three year old graduate of Jefferson County High School, who was employed as a boarder for Tennessee Machine & Hosiery. The employer manufactures socks, among other things. In the production process, damp socks are delivered in boxes or buggies to a pressing machine, where boarders remove them one at a time and place them on a form to be machine dried and pressed before being packaged for delivery and sale. On February 2, 1993, the claimant was treated by a dentist for an abscessed tooth. The next day, she asked to be excused from work, but the request was denied by the employer. After working a full shift for another employer, Hardee's, she reported to work at approximately 3:3 p.m. About an hour later, she ran to the bathroom crying. Another employee checked on her but she did not claim any work related injury. The co-worker summoned the claimant's supervisor, Jim Sullivan. The claimant told Sullivan that she was sick with an upset 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 10/15/96
Vanessa Phillips v. Pennsylvania National Insurance Company
03S01-9512-CV-00128
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Ben W. 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. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer contends (1) that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that the employee suffered an injury by accident in the course of her employment, (2) that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that the employee's permanent impairment is causally related to her employment, (3) that the trial court erred in awarding medical expenses of an unauthorized provider, and (4) that the trial court abused its discretion with respect to the award of discretionary costs. The panel concludes that the judgment should be reversed, for the reasons set forth below. The employee or claimant, Vanessa Phillips, now Vanessa Dunkhase, is a thirty-three year old graduate of Jefferson County High School, who was employed as a boarder for Tennessee Machine & Hosiery. The employer manufactures socks, among other things. In the production process, damp socks are delivered in boxes or buggies to a pressing machine, where boarders remove them one at a time and place them on a form to be machine dried and pressed before being packaged for delivery and sale. On February 2, 1993, the claimant was treated by a dentist for an abscessed tooth. The next day, she asked to be excused from work, but the request was denied by the employer. After working a full shift for another employer, Hardee's, she reported to work at approximately 3:3 p.m. About an hour later, she ran to the bathroom crying. Another employee checked on her but she did not claim any work related injury. The co-worker summoned the claimant's supervisor, Jim Sullivan. The claimant told Sullivan that she was sick with an upset 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 10/15/96
Shelby Williams Industries v. Alton Sane
03S01-9601-CH-00004
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Dennis H. Inman,
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, Shelby Williams Industries, Inc., instituted suit against Defendant, Alton Sane, seeking a determination as to whether the defendant had sustained a work-related injury which was compensable. The Chancellor found the claim to be compensable and fixed defendant's permanent partial disability at fifty percent to the body as a whole. The employer has appealed insisting the evidence is not sufficient to support the award and that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's findings. The employee is forty years old and has a twelfth-grade education. He testified he sustained an injury on July 12, 1994, while assembling chair backs; he was using a two-wheel dolly and, as he rolled it, a chair frame started to slide off and he attempted to catch it with the dolly in one hand and the frame in the other hand; while in this position, he felt a jolt in his low back; the next morning his legs tingled, and there was a numb feeling. He was seen at the hospital emergency room and was released; he also saw the company physician and later an orthopedic surgeon; he returned to work on August 3, 1994. The employee told the court he was injured again on October 7, 1994, while doing the same type work; he said, while in a twisted position, he bent over to get a chair seat; as he was reaching for the seat, he sneezed, and it felt like he had been shot; he saw the company doctor again and the orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed the problem as a ruptured disc; surgery was performed during November, 1994; and he had not been released to return to work as of the date of the trial on August 31, 1995. Dr. William Foster, an orthopedic surgeon, testified by deposition and stated he saw defendant shortly after both the July and October incidents; his opinion in July was that he had suffered a lumbar strain with a possible ruptured dis,c but he did not do further testing as his patient seemed to improve and returned to work; he 2
Hamblen County Workers Compensation Panel 10/15/96
St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company and Lineal Group, Inc. v. Cecil Carrick
01S01-9509-CV-00146
Authoring Judge: Robert L. Childers, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Robert E. Corlew
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 awarded Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff 85% permanent partial disability to the left lower extremity. Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant below appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that the employee's testimonywas credible; that the employee failed to prove that he sustained a permanent injury which arose out of and in the course of his employment; that the employee failed to give proper notice of his injury; that the evidence does not support an award of 85% to the lower extremity; and that the medical treatment awarded by the trialcourt was unauthorized and should not have been allowed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff worked at Samsonite for 3 years. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff's other work experience includes growing tobacco and peppers, raising cattle, and performing various odd jobs. Defendant/Counter- Plaintiff has a high school education and some training in electronics. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff's duties at Samsonite included counting and transferring chairs from one line to another. This involved shifting his weight from one leg to the other. It also involved spending long periods of time on his feet while working on a concrete floor. Because Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff suffered several strokes since the time of the injury and was unable to remember many of the specific facts surrounding his injury so as to be unavailable, the trial court relied on Defendant/Counter- Plaintiff's deposition testimony. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff was 55 years old on the date that he gave his deposition testimony. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff testified that he suffered from pain in his left knee. For four or five months prior tothe injury complained of, Defendant/Counter- Plaintiff's leg would swell from hip down to ankle. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff told his foreman about the problems with his legs
Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 10/10/96
St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company and Lineal Group, Inc. v. Cecil Carrick
01S01-9509-CV-00146
Authoring Judge: Robert L. Childers, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Robert E. Corlew
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 awarded Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff 85% permanent partial disability to the left lower extremity. Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant below appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that the employee's testimonywas credible; that the employee failed to prove that he sustained a permanent injury which arose out of and in the course of his employment; that the employee failed to give proper notice of his injury; that the evidence does not support an award of 85% to the lower extremity; and that the medical treatment awarded by the trialcourt was unauthorized and should not have been allowed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff worked at Samsonite for 3 years. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff's other work experience includes growing tobacco and peppers, raising cattle, and performing various odd jobs. Defendant/Counter- Plaintiff has a high school education and some training in electronics. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff's duties at Samsonite included counting and transferring chairs from one line to another. This involved shifting his weight from one leg to the other. It also involved spending long periods of time on his feet while working on a concrete floor. Because Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff suffered several strokes since the time of the injury and was unable to remember many of the specific facts surrounding his injury so as to be unavailable, the trial court relied on Defendant/Counter- Plaintiff's deposition testimony. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff was 55 years old on the date that he gave his deposition testimony. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff testified that he suffered from pain in his left knee. For four or five months prior tothe injury complained of, Defendant/Counter- Plaintiff's leg would swell from hip down to ankle. Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff told his foreman about the problems with his legs
Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 10/10/96
Kenneth W. Leach v. Driver Power Leasing & Humboldt Express
01S01-9601-CV-00021
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Randolph A. Veazey,
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/10/96
Kenneth W. Leach v. Driver Power Leasing & Humboldt Express
01S01-9601-CV-00021
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Randolph A. Veazey,
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/10/96
Joseph Jarreau v. Vanliner Insurance Company
01S01-9512-CH-00228
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Bobby Capers,
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. This appeal presents the questions whether and under what circumstances, if any, an injured worker may give up his right to future medical expenses. The panel concludes the trial court's judgment, approving a settlement in which the right to future medical expenses was voluntarily surrendered for consideration, should be affirmed. The employee or claimant, Jarreau, commenced this civil action by filing a complaint for workers' compensation benefits, averring that he had suffered an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment by Ozark Motor Lines, Inc. The complaint further averred, in relevant part, that his injury had been diagnosed as a tear of the left medial meniscus, that he had reached maximum medical recovery and would retain a permanent impairment but that there was a genuine dispute as to the extent of his permanent disability. He sought to recover medical and permanent partial disability benefits. Vanliner Insurance Company served its answer admitting it was the insurer for Ozark, but denying that the claimant had suffered a compensable injury or that he was permanently disabled. On September 8, 1994, before the case could be tried, the claimant and his attorney and the attorney for Vanliner appeared before Judge Capers seeking approval of a negotiated settlement. By the settlement terms, the claimant was to receive $25,459.2, representing a permanent partial disability of forty percent to the left leg, and an additional $9,54.8 in consideration of the claimant's relinquishment of any claim for future medical benefits, for a total of $35,.. Additionally, the claimant had already received $15,481.3 in medical benefits and $12,481.3 in temporary total disability benefits. We find in the record no transcript of the settlement hearing, but Judge Capers found that Dr. Robert V. Russell had opined the claimant had reached maximum medical improvement and would retain a permanent anatomical impairment of ten percent to the leg. The judge further found the settlement to be in the best interest of the claimant, "in light of the controversy and dispute between the parties." The agreement was approved as a full, final and complete settlement of Mr. Jarreau's claim against the employer and its insurer. Almost eight months later, on April 28, 1995, the claimant applied to the court, per Tenn. R. Civ. P. 6.2, for an order setting aside the settlement 2
Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/10/96
Bobby G. Dickens v. Travelers Insurance Company
01S01-9512-CR-00227
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. J. O. Bond,
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 employer's insurer contends the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive. The panel concludes the award should be affirmed. The claimant, Dickens, is 54 years old with a high school education and no special skills. In April of 1993, while working for Eatherly Construction Company as a ditch digger, he twisted his right knee. He was referred to Dr. John McInnis, who arthroscopically diagnosed and removed a large tear from the lateral meniscus of the claimant's right knee joint. The doctor assessed a permanent anatomical impairment of seven and one-half percent to the right knee, from AMA Guidelines. The claimant returned to work on June 21, 1993, but is medically restricted from repetitive squatting. Because his duties at Eatherly required him to climb, squat and kneel, he left Eatherly and is now working for another construction company servicing equipment, a job he can perform while standing in a pit. He is making less than he would be making in his former work at Eatherly. The trial court awarded permanent partial disabililty benefits on the basis of forty percent to the injured leg. 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). Once the causation and permanency of an injury have been established by expert testimony, the trial judge may consider many pertinent factors, including age, job skills, education, training, duration of disability, and job opportunities for the disabled, in addition to anatomical impairment, for the purpose of evaluating the extent of a claimant's permanent disability. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-241(a)(2). From a consideration of those factors in this case, the panel finds that the evidence fails to preponderate against the judgment of the trial court. The judgment of the trial court is therefore affirmed. Costs on appeal are taxed to the defendant-appellant. 2
Smith County Workers Compensation Panel 10/10/96
Bobby G. Dickens v. Travelers Insurance Company
01S01-9512-CR-00227
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. J. O. Bond,
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 employer's insurer contends the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive. The panel concludes the award should be affirmed. The claimant, Dickens, is 54 years old with a high school education and no special skills. In April of 1993, while working for Eatherly Construction Company as a ditch digger, he twisted his right knee. He was referred to Dr. John McInnis, who arthroscopically diagnosed and removed a large tear from the lateral meniscus of the claimant's right knee joint. The doctor assessed a permanent anatomical impairment of seven and one-half percent to the right knee, from AMA Guidelines. The claimant returned to work on June 21, 1993, but is medically restricted from repetitive squatting. Because his duties at Eatherly required him to climb, squat and kneel, he left Eatherly and is now working for another construction company servicing equipment, a job he can perform while standing in a pit. He is making less than he would be making in his former work at Eatherly. The trial court awarded permanent partial disabililty benefits on the basis of forty percent to the injured leg. 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). Once the causation and permanency of an injury have been established by expert testimony, the trial judge may consider many pertinent factors, including age, job skills, education, training, duration of disability, and job opportunities for the disabled, in addition to anatomical impairment, for the purpose of evaluating the extent of a claimant's permanent disability. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-241(a)(2). From a consideration of those factors in this case, the panel finds that the evidence fails to preponderate against the judgment of the trial court. The judgment of the trial court is therefore affirmed. Costs on appeal are taxed to the defendant-appellant. 2
Smith County Workers Compensation Panel 10/10/96
Deborah Jean Barne v. Emerson Electric Company
02S01-9505-CV-00043
Authoring Judge: Janice M. Holder, Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Julian Guinn, Judge
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 employer contends the trial court erred in: 1. Awarding permanent partial disability benefits based on 8% to the left hand; and 2. Aw ardi ng th e cos t of o btain ing D r. Ro bert J. Ba rnet t's depos ition as a recove rable dis cretiona ry cost. We affirm the trial court as to both issues. Deborah Jean Barner ("Barner") is 41 years of age and a high school graduate. Other than attending college for one quarter, she has no additional educational experience , specialized training or vocational training. H er work history consists entirely of factory work. Prior to employment at Emerson, Barner performed assem bly work in a plastics factory a nd worked in fa ctories where clothing was co nstructe d and s hoes w ere ma nufactu red. On October 18, 1993, Barner injured her non-dominant left hand arising out of the course and scope of her employment. From a list of three doctors given to her by the employer, she chose Dr. Harrison, whose billing reflects that he treated her on four occasions over a four month period. Dr. Harrison referred her to Dr. Stonecipher, an o rthopedic surgeon. B arner became d issatisfied with Dr. Stonecipher's treatment and continued to have difficulty performing her job duties withou t swellin g and c onstan t pain. Barner was then referred by her attorney to Dr. David Gaw, who referred her to Dr. Charles Emerson, another orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Emerson's records, 2
Henry County Workers Compensation Panel 10/10/96