Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 10/25/2014
Format: 10/25/2014
Mark Anthony Parker v. National Surety Corporation
02S01-9601-CH-00004
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Mark Anthony Parker
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 of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this case the first employer appeals the ruling of the trial court that the injury occurred during his term of employment with the first employer. The trial court found no second injury after April 1 and awarded benefits against the first employer. The second issue is raised by Appellant to the awarding of 4% to each arm. We affirm the findings of the trial court. The Plaintiff's carpal tunnel symptoms began in the right hand "at the beginning of the 9's." (T. at 24). The left hand became symptomatic "a year or so later." (T. P. 25). His symptoms became worse with time. (T.P. 25). "Q. . . .(t)hat you went to the doctor finally when it got so bad that you couldn't stand it. Is that correct? A. Yes, ma'am." (T. P. 39). "Q. . . .(t)hat was while you were working for the first employer? A. Yes, ma'am." (T. P. 39). The Plaintiff had a conversation with the second employer's representative a few days before the second employer became responsible and reported a work related injury while working for the first employer. (T. P. 4). The complaint here was filed alleging a February 1994 injury. The second employer took over on April 1, 1994. The employee further testified that, "Q Activities caused you to experience pain in your hands? 1
Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 09/09/96
Jimmy Johnson v. WaUSAu Insurance Company
02S01-9601-CH-00008
Authoring Judge: Hewitt P. Tomlin, Jr., Senior 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, 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. Jimmy Johnson ("plaintiff") has appealed the trial court's dismissal of his suit for workers' compensation benefits on the grounds that plaintiff failed to prove that he sustained an injury arising out of and in the course and scope of his employment by preponderance of the evidence. Plaintiff was employed by Gurien Finishing Corporation ("Gurien"), who was insured by defendant, Wausau Insurance Company. For the foregoing reasons, we find no error and affirm. Plaintiff was employed at Gurien as a washer operator as part of Gurien's manufacturing process of stonewashed jeans. Plaintiff alleges that on August 1, 1993, he injured his lower back while pulling open a washer door that had been jammed with a rock. He stated that he did not report the injury at the time of the accident because it felt more like a cramp. When he woke up in pain the following morning, plaintiff testified that he reported the accident to his shift manager, Cindy Long. He stated that he advised Long that he hurt himself jerking on a washer door. Plaintiff was treated by his personal physician, Dr. Philip Sherman, on August 16, 1993. He gave Dr. Sherman a history of hurting his back while pulling machines at work. Plaintiff complained to Dr. Sherman of low back pain with some pain radiating into his legs, with the pain being worse in his left leg than his right. Dr. Sherman diagnosed pl aintiff as suffering from lumbosacral strain and prescribed pain medication. In November 1993 plaintiff returned to Dr. Sherman with compl aints of 2
Johnson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/09/96
Jimmy Johnson v. WaUSAu Insurance Company
02S01-9601-CH-00008
Authoring Judge: Hewitt P. Tomlin, Jr., Senior 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, 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. Jimmy Johnson ("plaintiff") has appealed the trial court's dismissal of his suit for workers' compensation benefits on the grounds that plaintiff failed to prove that he sustained an injury arising out of and in the course and scope of his employment by preponderance of the evidence. Plaintiff was employed by Gurien Finishing Corporation ("Gurien"), who was insured by defendant, Wausau Insurance Company. For the foregoing reasons, we find no error and affirm. Plaintiff was employed at Gurien as a washer operator as part of Gurien's manufacturing process of stonewashed jeans. Plaintiff alleges that on August 1, 1993, he injured his lower back while pulling open a washer door that had been jammed with a rock. He stated that he did not report the injury at the time of the accident because it felt more like a cramp. When he woke up in pain the following morning, plaintiff testified that he reported the accident to his shift manager, Cindy Long. He stated that he advised Long that he hurt himself jerking on a washer door. Plaintiff was treated by his personal physician, Dr. Philip Sherman, on August 16, 1993. He gave Dr. Sherman a history of hurting his back while pulling machines at work. Plaintiff complained to Dr. Sherman of low back pain with some pain radiating into his legs, with the pain being worse in his left leg than his right. Dr. Sherman diagnosed pl aintiff as suffering from lumbosacral strain and prescribed pain medication. In November 1993 plaintiff returned to Dr. Sherman with compl aints of 2
Johnson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/09/96
John Ivory, Jr. v. Emerson Motor Company
02S01-9505-CH-00042
Authoring Judge: Janice M. Holder, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. George Ellis,
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 employee contends the trial court erred in: 1. Failing to assign perman ent partial disability to the right arm as opposed to the right hand; and 2. Limiting the award o f perman ent partial disab ility benefits to 55% to the right hand. We affirm the trial court in all respects. The plain tiff, John Ivo ry, Jr., ("Ivory") is 25 years o f age with an eleven th grade education. He received a G.E.D and successfully completed Job Corps training in brick masonry. His previous work experience included upholstering furniture, w orking as a construction laborer and as a produ ction line w orker at a chee se fa ctor y. On August 15, 1992, Ivory was repairing a die cast machine for Emerson Motor Company when the machine activated, injuring the fingers of his right hand. Ivory was treated by Dr. Frederick Torstrick, an orthopedic surgeon, for crush injuries to the index, long and ring fingers, fractures to the index and ring fingers, and longitudinal lacerations to the top and bottom of his hand. A later surgical procedure performed to improve movement required incisions in each of the injured fingers, the removal of adhesions between the tendon and underlying bone and cutting of some of the tissues of the capsule of the joints. Ivory was referred to a work ha rdening p rogram w here there w as some q uestion of h is coope ration. 2
Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/09/96
John Ivory, Jr. v. Emerson Motor Company
02S01-9505-CH-00042
Authoring Judge: Janice M. Holder, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. George Ellis,
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 employee contends the trial court erred in: 1. Failing to assign perman ent partial disability to the right arm as opposed to the right hand; and 2. Limiting the award o f perman ent partial disab ility benefits to 55% to the right hand. We affirm the trial court in all respects. The plain tiff, John Ivo ry, Jr., ("Ivory") is 25 years o f age with an eleven th grade education. He received a G.E.D and successfully completed Job Corps training in brick masonry. His previous work experience included upholstering furniture, w orking as a construction laborer and as a produ ction line w orker at a chee se fa ctor y. On August 15, 1992, Ivory was repairing a die cast machine for Emerson Motor Company when the machine activated, injuring the fingers of his right hand. Ivory was treated by Dr. Frederick Torstrick, an orthopedic surgeon, for crush injuries to the index, long and ring fingers, fractures to the index and ring fingers, and longitudinal lacerations to the top and bottom of his hand. A later surgical procedure performed to improve movement required incisions in each of the injured fingers, the removal of adhesions between the tendon and underlying bone and cutting of some of the tissues of the capsule of the joints. Ivory was referred to a work ha rdening p rogram w here there w as some q uestion of h is coope ration. 2
Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/09/96
Charles E . Carey v. Carolina Freight Carriers
02S01-9506-CH-00050
Authoring Judge: Janice M. Holder, Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Joe C. Morris,
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. In its appeal, the employer contends that the evidence does not support the trial court's award of seventy percent (7%) to the lower extremity and that the trial court erred in computing the employee's average weekly wage at $273. instead of $22.21 per week. The panel concludes that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's assessment of permanent disability and modifies th e award to thirty-five percen t (35%) to the lower e xtremity. Prope rly computed, the employee's average weekly wage is $22.21 per week. Charles E. Carey ("Carey") was injured on December 27, 1991, when a bank vault weighing five hundred pounds fell off a fork lift and struck the front part of his left thigh. He was initially treated by Dr. R. Michael Cobb, an orthopedic surgeon, who suspected a torn ligament in Carey's knee. Dr. Cobb later concluded, however, that the ligament was not torn and that surgery was not needed. In February, 1992, Carey began to complain of numbness in his toes, although Dr. Cobb was unable to find any indication of injury to the sciatic nerve, which provides feeling to the toes. Carey was given a note to return to work on March 1, 1992. Upon examination on March 16, 1992, Carey's range of motion was excellent and his strength appeared to be normal. He advised Dr. Cobb that he was hav ing no pro blem at w ork. A ne rve cond uction study, pe rformed as a result of the c ompla ints of to e num bness, s howe d no sig n of inju ry to the sc iatic nerv e. Carey was given no permanent physical anatomical impairment and was discharged from Dr. Cobb's care on March 16, 1992. When he returned to work in March, Carey performed the same duties that 2
Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 09/09/96
Charles E . Carey v. Carolina Freight Carriers
02S01-9506-CH-00050
Authoring Judge: Janice M. Holder, Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Joe C. Morris,
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. In its appeal, the employer contends that the evidence does not support the trial court's award of seventy percent (7%) to the lower extremity and that the trial court erred in computing the employee's average weekly wage at $273. instead of $22.21 per week. The panel concludes that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's assessment of permanent disability and modifies th e award to thirty-five percen t (35%) to the lower e xtremity. Prope rly computed, the employee's average weekly wage is $22.21 per week. Charles E. Carey ("Carey") was injured on December 27, 1991, when a bank vault weighing five hundred pounds fell off a fork lift and struck the front part of his left thigh. He was initially treated by Dr. R. Michael Cobb, an orthopedic surgeon, who suspected a torn ligament in Carey's knee. Dr. Cobb later concluded, however, that the ligament was not torn and that surgery was not needed. In February, 1992, Carey began to complain of numbness in his toes, although Dr. Cobb was unable to find any indication of injury to the sciatic nerve, which provides feeling to the toes. Carey was given a note to return to work on March 1, 1992. Upon examination on March 16, 1992, Carey's range of motion was excellent and his strength appeared to be normal. He advised Dr. Cobb that he was hav ing no pro blem at w ork. A ne rve cond uction study, pe rformed as a result of the c ompla ints of to e num bness, s howe d no sig n of inju ry to the sc iatic nerv e. Carey was given no permanent physical anatomical impairment and was discharged from Dr. Cobb's care on March 16, 1992. When he returned to work in March, Carey performed the same duties that 2
Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 09/09/96
Mart E. Kobeck v. Murray, Inc.
01S01-9511-CV-00207
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: Hon. James L. Weatherford
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 his neck at work in October of 1991 and subsequently underwent anterior cervical disc removal, dissection and fusion after which he did not recover. The trial judge found the plaintiff to be 8 percent vocationally impaired as a result of his work injury. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff had worked for Murray, Inc. for 35 years when, on October 21, 1991, he injured his neck on the job while working overhead repairing lawn mowers. The company sent him to see Dr. Norman Henderson, who then referred him to Dr. Rex Arendall, neurosurgeon, on April 1, 1992. Dr. Arendall diagnosed cervico-thoracic radiculopathy and prescribed physical therapy and pain medications, but plaintiff did not improve. On April 23, 1992, Dr. Arendall performed anterior cervical discectomy, anterior cervical fusion and microscopic dissection at C4-5 and C5-6. Post-operatively, plaintiff continued to have increasing pain and weakness in his right arm and shoulder. He also developed loss of balance. Dr. Arendall re-admitted plaintiff for investigation of the continuing symptoms, and MRI of the brain then revealed small areas of infarction. Dr. Arendall referred plaintiff to his medical practice partner and neurologist, Dr. Mary Clinton, for a second opinion, and then to another neurologist, a Dr. Rubinowicz. Neither examiner could find a neurological basis for plaintiff's problems except for the brain infarctions. Dr. Arendall stated that after the second hospitalization, plaintiff "seemed to go progressively downhill." His right arm and hand atrophied. Dr. Arendall thought that plaintiff might be exhibiting early onset symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or multiple sclerosis, but there were no objective findings to indicate either disease. On October 21, 1992, Dr. Arendall saw the patient and opined that he was totally and permanently disabled as a result of his medical problems. He opined that 15 percent of the disability was "purely for his work-related findings." Plaintiff testified that for many years prior to his accident, he had worked without missing a day and that he had no prior medical problems that required him to 2
Lawrence County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/96
Mart E. Kobeck v. Murray, Inc.
01S01-9511-CV-00207
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: Hon. James L. Weatherford
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 his neck at work in October of 1991 and subsequently underwent anterior cervical disc removal, dissection and fusion after which he did not recover. The trial judge found the plaintiff to be 8 percent vocationally impaired as a result of his work injury. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff had worked for Murray, Inc. for 35 years when, on October 21, 1991, he injured his neck on the job while working overhead repairing lawn mowers. The company sent him to see Dr. Norman Henderson, who then referred him to Dr. Rex Arendall, neurosurgeon, on April 1, 1992. Dr. Arendall diagnosed cervico-thoracic radiculopathy and prescribed physical therapy and pain medications, but plaintiff did not improve. On April 23, 1992, Dr. Arendall performed anterior cervical discectomy, anterior cervical fusion and microscopic dissection at C4-5 and C5-6. Post-operatively, plaintiff continued to have increasing pain and weakness in his right arm and shoulder. He also developed loss of balance. Dr. Arendall re-admitted plaintiff for investigation of the continuing symptoms, and MRI of the brain then revealed small areas of infarction. Dr. Arendall referred plaintiff to his medical practice partner and neurologist, Dr. Mary Clinton, for a second opinion, and then to another neurologist, a Dr. Rubinowicz. Neither examiner could find a neurological basis for plaintiff's problems except for the brain infarctions. Dr. Arendall stated that after the second hospitalization, plaintiff "seemed to go progressively downhill." His right arm and hand atrophied. Dr. Arendall thought that plaintiff might be exhibiting early onset symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or multiple sclerosis, but there were no objective findings to indicate either disease. On October 21, 1992, Dr. Arendall saw the patient and opined that he was totally and permanently disabled as a result of his medical problems. He opined that 15 percent of the disability was "purely for his work-related findings." Plaintiff testified that for many years prior to his accident, he had worked without missing a day and that he had no prior medical problems that required him to 2
Lawrence County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/96
Frances Reynolds Kellerman v. Food Lion, Inc.
01S01-9512-CH-00226
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Jeffrey F. Stewart,
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) the chancellor erred in not accepting the opinion testimony ofthe claimant's treating physician, (2) the claimant's back injury is not compensable because the evidence failed to establish that "the accident either otherwise injured her or advanced the severity of her preexisting condition, (3) that the chancellor erred in considering expert medical testimony not based on reasonable medical certainty, and (4) the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive. The panel concludes that the evidence fails to preponderate against the findings of the trial court. The judgment is modified as provided herein. On November 29, 1993, the claimant, Kellerman, slipped and fell in a puddle of water at work, twisting her right knee and injuring her back. She was eventually referred to Dr. Richard Bagby, who saw her on January 13, 1994 and January 2, 1994. Dr. Bagby ordered a CT scan and studied the results. He opined that the claimant reached maximum medical improvement on January 24, 1994, when she was released to return to work with some minor restrictions. The doctor further opined that she would not retain any permanent impairment. We do not find in the record the degree of certainty upon which the doctor's opinion was based. The claimant returned to Dr. Bagby on March 1, 1994, when he noted her continuing pain but did not change her restrictions from lifting more than twenty pounds or any repetitive bending, or assess any permanent impairment. The claimant was referred to Dr. Keith Brown for examination and evaluation. Dr. Brown performed additional testing which put stress on her knee and back. From his examination, particularly a positive McMurray's test, this doctor diagnosed a torn medial meniscus in the right knee joint, which, if not treated, will worsen, he said. He assigned a permanent impairment rating of five percent to the right leg, using AMA Guidelines, and added restriction from any kneeling or stooping activities. Dr. Brown further opined that the claimant's disabling back pain was permanent and causally related to the injury at work. He diagnosed circumferential disc disorder which, he said, may or may not have preexisted that injury but was aggravated by the injury, and assigned an additional permanent impairment of ten percent to the whole person, from AMA Guidelines. His testimony included the following question and answer: Q. In the opinions you have expressed, have they been based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty? 2
Franklin County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/96
Frances Reynolds Kellerman v. Food Lion, Inc.
01S01-9512-CH-00226
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Jeffrey F. Stewart,
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) the chancellor erred in not accepting the opinion testimony ofthe claimant's treating physician, (2) the claimant's back injury is not compensable because the evidence failed to establish that "the accident either otherwise injured her or advanced the severity of her preexisting condition, (3) that the chancellor erred in considering expert medical testimony not based on reasonable medical certainty, and (4) the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive. The panel concludes that the evidence fails to preponderate against the findings of the trial court. The judgment is modified as provided herein. On November 29, 1993, the claimant, Kellerman, slipped and fell in a puddle of water at work, twisting her right knee and injuring her back. She was eventually referred to Dr. Richard Bagby, who saw her on January 13, 1994 and January 2, 1994. Dr. Bagby ordered a CT scan and studied the results. He opined that the claimant reached maximum medical improvement on January 24, 1994, when she was released to return to work with some minor restrictions. The doctor further opined that she would not retain any permanent impairment. We do not find in the record the degree of certainty upon which the doctor's opinion was based. The claimant returned to Dr. Bagby on March 1, 1994, when he noted her continuing pain but did not change her restrictions from lifting more than twenty pounds or any repetitive bending, or assess any permanent impairment. The claimant was referred to Dr. Keith Brown for examination and evaluation. Dr. Brown performed additional testing which put stress on her knee and back. From his examination, particularly a positive McMurray's test, this doctor diagnosed a torn medial meniscus in the right knee joint, which, if not treated, will worsen, he said. He assigned a permanent impairment rating of five percent to the right leg, using AMA Guidelines, and added restriction from any kneeling or stooping activities. Dr. Brown further opined that the claimant's disabling back pain was permanent and causally related to the injury at work. He diagnosed circumferential disc disorder which, he said, may or may not have preexisted that injury but was aggravated by the injury, and assigned an additional permanent impairment of ten percent to the whole person, from AMA Guidelines. His testimony included the following question and answer: Q. In the opinions you have expressed, have they been based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty? 2
Franklin County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/96
Woodrow Cecil Foster v. Coffee County Highway Department and Coffee County, Tennessee
01S01-9512-CH-00232
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Retired Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. John W. Rollins,
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 questions the trial court's conclusion that the claim is not barred by Tenn. Code Ann. section 5- 6- 23, a one year statute of limitation. The employer also contends the award of permanent partial disability benefits based on forty-five percent to the body as a whole is excessive. This panel finds that the judgment should be affirmed. The action was commencedby the employee or claimant, Woodrow C. Foster, by the filing of a complaint on March 6, 1991, against the employer, Coffee County Highway Department and Coffee County, Tennessee, seeking workers' compensation benefits for injuries occurring in 1986 and 1987. The defendants served an answer raising the affirmative defense that the claim was barred by the above statute of limitation. Our 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) (1992). We accept the chancellor's relevant findings of fact as follows: "The plaintiff was a 59 year old male with a tenth grade education who, for the most part, had spent his adult life either driving a truck or loading and unloading a truck with short periods of employment as a carpenter's helper and working at a service station. Mr. Foster testified that in March, 1986, while changing a flat tire, he thought he 'broke his back,' that he went to a doctor who put a corset on him for two weeks and told him he had a 'pulled muscle.' Plaintiff went back to work and testified that he thought (the 'pulled muscle') was the only condition for which he suffered any discomfort. Plaintiff testified that in 199 he saw a doctor because his back continued to hurt. He saw Dr. Robison and Dr. Jekot, who asked him to return for another appointment but he did not let him return to work without seeing a neurosurgeon. He went to see Dr. Verne Allen...(who) performed an MRI that showed a bulging disc...(for which) he ultimately had surgery.... Plaintiff testified that he went back to work after surgery. He was off work approximately two months, but despite being given no restrictions as a result of the surgery he has constant pain out of the left side of his back and down his leg, that he presently takes steroids and walks to try to stay limber although he continues to hurt. Plaintiff testified that he continues to try to perform his job as a truck driver with the defendant Highway Department." An action by an employee to recover workers' compensation benefits for an accidental injury must be commenced within one year after the occurrence of the injury. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-224(1). However, if within such one year period the employer or its insurer makes voluntary payment of benefits, the action may be commenced within one year after the cessation of benefits. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-23. 2
Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/96
Woodrow Cecil Foster v. Coffee County Highway Department and Coffee County, Tennessee
01S01-9512-CH-00232
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Retired Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. John W. Rollins,
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 questions the trial court's conclusion that the claim is not barred by Tenn. Code Ann. section 5- 6- 23, a one year statute of limitation. The employer also contends the award of permanent partial disability benefits based on forty-five percent to the body as a whole is excessive. This panel finds that the judgment should be affirmed. The action was commencedby the employee or claimant, Woodrow C. Foster, by the filing of a complaint on March 6, 1991, against the employer, Coffee County Highway Department and Coffee County, Tennessee, seeking workers' compensation benefits for injuries occurring in 1986 and 1987. The defendants served an answer raising the affirmative defense that the claim was barred by the above statute of limitation. Our 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) (1992). We accept the chancellor's relevant findings of fact as follows: "The plaintiff was a 59 year old male with a tenth grade education who, for the most part, had spent his adult life either driving a truck or loading and unloading a truck with short periods of employment as a carpenter's helper and working at a service station. Mr. Foster testified that in March, 1986, while changing a flat tire, he thought he 'broke his back,' that he went to a doctor who put a corset on him for two weeks and told him he had a 'pulled muscle.' Plaintiff went back to work and testified that he thought (the 'pulled muscle') was the only condition for which he suffered any discomfort. Plaintiff testified that in 199 he saw a doctor because his back continued to hurt. He saw Dr. Robison and Dr. Jekot, who asked him to return for another appointment but he did not let him return to work without seeing a neurosurgeon. He went to see Dr. Verne Allen...(who) performed an MRI that showed a bulging disc...(for which) he ultimately had surgery.... Plaintiff testified that he went back to work after surgery. He was off work approximately two months, but despite being given no restrictions as a result of the surgery he has constant pain out of the left side of his back and down his leg, that he presently takes steroids and walks to try to stay limber although he continues to hurt. Plaintiff testified that he continues to try to perform his job as a truck driver with the defendant Highway Department." An action by an employee to recover workers' compensation benefits for an accidental injury must be commenced within one year after the occurrence of the injury. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-224(1). However, if within such one year period the employer or its insurer makes voluntary payment of benefits, the action may be commenced within one year after the cessation of benefits. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-23. 2
Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/96