Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 07/25/2014
Format: 07/25/2014
Wyatt Johnson v. Venture Express, Inc. et al.
E2009-02402-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dale C. Workman

The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim against the employer for injuries sustained in a trucking accident. The trial court ruled that the employee was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the accident and entitled to full benefits. The employer appealed, alleging that the trial court erred in finding the employee permanently and totally disabled. The appeal was referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-225(e)(3) and Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the findings of fact made by the trial court, the judgment is affirmed.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 01/28/11
Daniel Veler vs. Wackenhut Services, Inc., et al.
E2010-00965-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

An employee of a company providing security services injured a knee at his place of employment. The trial court denied workers’ compensation benefits. Because the injury arose out of the employment and is not idiopathic in nature, the employee is entitled to recovery under the statute. The judgment is reversed. The cause is remanded to the trial court for a determination of benefits.

Anderson County Workers Compensation Panel 01/28/11
Dorothy Michaud v. Rehab Care Group
W2009-02152-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

The employee sustained a compensable injury to her shoulder. As a result of her medical restrictions, she was unable to return to work at her previous job. The trial court adopted the impairment rating assigned by the physician conducting the employee’s Independent Medical Examination over that of the treating doctor and awarded 48% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The employer appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 01/27/11
Joann Davis v. Harwell Enterprises
M2009-02145-WC-R9-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robert L. Holloway

This appeal involves the application of the statute of limitations in Tenn. Code Ann. _ 50-6-203(g (2)(B) (2008) to a suit for workers' compensation benefits. An employee who sustained a compensable injury and who received authorized medical treatment filed a civil action in the Chancery Court for Giles County more than one year after the last payment of medical benefits. Her employer filed a "special motion to dismiss" on the ground that the suit was time-barred. The trial court, relying on the discovery rule, denied the motion on the ground that the limitations period did not begin to run until the employee's attorney received a letter from her treating physician stating [*2] that her injury was work-related. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the employer permission to appeal under Tenn. R. App. P. 9 and referred the appeal to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel in accordance with Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51 for hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. We have determined that the statute of limitations bars the  employee's complaint and, therefore, reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Giles County Workers Compensation Panel 11/29/10
Thomas E. Blake v. Nissan North America, Inc., et al.
M2009-02173-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III

The employee sustained a compensable injury to his right arm. After surgery and recovery, he returned to work for the same employer at the same rate of pay. Over a year later, his work week was reduced from forty to thirty-two hours per week as part of a plant-wide reduction in hours due to economic conditions. While working the reduced number of hours, he accepted a buyout offer and voluntarily resigned. Subsequently, his workers’ compensation case was tried. The trial court held that he did not have a meaningful return to work because of the reduction in work hours and made an award of more than one and one-half times the impairment. The employer has appealed, contending that employee had a meaningful return to work in spite of the plant-wide reduction of work hours carried out for the purpose of preventing layoffs. We agree that the reduction in force, under these facts, does not impair the determination that the employee had a meaningful return to work, and we modify the judgment accordingly

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 11/10/10
William W. Griffin v. Walker Die Casting, Inc., et al.
M2009-01773-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The employee sought to compel the employer to provide a total left knee replacement surgery based upon court-approved settlement for a work-related left knee contusion. The trial court ordered the employer to provide the knee replacement surgery and awarded attorney’s fees to the employee. The employer has appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by finding that the proposed surgery was causally related to the work injury. We agree and reverse the trial court’s order.

Marshall County Workers Compensation Panel 11/10/10
Sandra Jane Gardner v. Randstad North America, L.P.
M2009-01214-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee Russell

Employee alleged that she injured her left arm in the course of her employment.  Employer denied liability, contending employee’s injuries were not causally related to or arising from her employment. The trial court found that employee injured her left wrist, left elbow, and left shoulder in the course and scope of her employment, and it awarded 39% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The trial court ordered employer to pay the treating physician the entire cost of surgery and treatment, and it ordered physician to reimburse TennCare. Employer has appealed. We affirm as to the arm injury but conclude that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that employee’s shoulder injury was related to her employment. We also conclude that the trial court erred regarding the payment of medical expenses to the physician. Accordingly, we remand the case to the trial court for a determination of permanent partial disability to the arm and entry of an order regarding reimbursement of medical expenses.

Lincoln County Workers Compensation Panel 11/01/10
Calvin D. Ervin v. Jones Bros., Inc., et al. and Kevin D. Ervin v. Jones Bros., Inc., et al.
M2008-02755-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan

This consolidated appeal involves two employees who were injured while traveling in a personal vehicle during lunchtime while going from one job site to another. The trial court held that the injuries were compensable and awarded permanent partial disability benefits. The employer has appealed. We affirm the trial court's holding on the issue of compensability. However, we modify the trial court's ruling on the extent of disability.

Montgomery County Workers Compensation Panel 10/22/10
Melvin Hill v. Whirlpool Corporation
M2009-01858-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

After a plant closure, employee sought reconsideration of a prior workers’ compensation settlement for right shoulder and elbow injuries in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6- 241(a)(2) (2008). Employer denied that he was entitled to reconsideration of the elbow injury because it was a separate injury to a scheduled member. Id. § 50-6-241(a)(1). The trial court found that the two injuries were concurrent and that employee was entitled to receive reconsideration as to both. It further found that employee had proven three of the four factors set out in Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-242(a) (2008) by clear and convincing evidence and was therefore not limited by the six times impairment cap. The trial court awarded 57.5% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. On appeal, employer contends that the trial court erred by finding the injuries to be concurrent and by finding that employee had satisfied the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-242(a). We affirm the holding that the injuries were concurrent but find that employee did not satisfy his burden of proof under Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-242(a). We modify the judgment accordingly.

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 10/21/10
Tacle Seating USA, LLC v. Ricky Lee Vaughn
M2009-02418-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court awarded 100% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) to the left arm and 18% PPD to the right arm. The employer contends the trial court erred in awarding compensation to both arms, rather than the left thumb only. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 10/19/10
Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, et al. v. William R. Hill, et al.
M2009-01772-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barbara N. Haynes

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Employee suffered work-related injuries to his knees prior to 2003 and underwent numerous surgeries. He entered into two settlements that obligated Employer to pay all future medical expenses arising from those injuries. In 2004, Employee fell at home and reinjured his right knee. He sought workers' compensation benefits, claiming that the 2004 injury was a natural consequence of his prior compensable knee injuries. The trial court granted summary judgment to Employer, finding that Employee's injury was not a natural consequence of the prior on-the-job knee injuries. We affirm the judgment as to Employee’s claims for permanent partial disability benefits, and certain temporary total disability benefits. We reverse as to Employee’s claims for medical benefits and certain temporary total disability benefits because there are disputed material facts that could allow Employee to prove his 2004 injury was a natural consequence of his prior compensable knee injuries. We affirm the trial court's dismissal of several collateral issues raised by employee.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/07/10
Steven Williams v. United Parcel Service, et al.
M2009-02334-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor C.K. Smith

This workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel. An employee who sustained a compensable injury to his left knee in 2006 filed suit in the Chancery Court for Wilson County seeking to recover benefits for an additional injury to his right knee allegedly caused by over-reliance on his right leg as a result of the earlier injury to his left knee. The employer denied liability and sought to introduce at trial a Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”) report prepared in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-204(d)(5) (Supp. 2009). The trial court sustained the employee’s objection to the introduction of the MIR report. Following a bench trial, the trial court determined that the 2006 injury to the employee’s left knee was compensable and awarded the employee 27% permanent partial impairment to each leg. On this appeal, the employer asserts that the trial court erred by excluding the MIR report, by finding that the injury to the employee’s right knee was a new, compensable injury, and by basing its award on the impairment rating of the employee’s physician. We affirm the judgment.

Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/28/10
Linda Princinsky v. Premier Manufacturing Support
M2009-00207-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Donald P. Harris.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jim T. Hamilton

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee, Linda Princinsky, sought reconsideration for a compensable injury that she sustained in 2002. Following the injury, she was able to return to work for her pre-injury employer. Her workers’ compensation claim was settled for two and one half times the anatomical impairment in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6- 241(a). In 2005, she sustained another work-related injury, and was unable to return to her job. She entered into a court-approved settlement of that claim based upon 40.5% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. She then sought reconsideration, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(a)(2), of the settlement of her 2002 injury. The trial court found that she was permanently and totally disabled as a result of that injury and awarded benefits accordingly. Employer and the Second Injury Fund have appealed.  We affirm the trial court’s finding that Ms. Princinsky was rendered permanently and totally disabled by her 2002 injury, but conclude that the trial court erred in failing to offset from its award 272 weeks of benefits previously paid by the employer for the 2002 and 2005 injuries. We, therefore, modify the award and remand the case to the trial court for the entry of an appropriate judgment consistent with this opinion.

Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 09/23/10
Melvin Hill v. Whirlpool Corporation
M2009-01858-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

After a plant closure, employee sought reconsideration of a prior workers’ compensation settlement for right shoulder and elbow injuries in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6- 241(a)(2) (2008). Employer denied that he was entitled to reconsideration of the elbow injury because it was a separate injury to a scheduled member. Id. § 50-6-241(a)(1). The trial court found that the two injuries were concurrent and that employee was entitled to receive reconsideration as to both. It further found that employee had proven three of the four factors set out in Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-242(a) (2008) by clear and convincing evidence and was therefore not limited by the six times impairment cap. The trial court awarded 57.5% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. On appeal, employer contends that the trial court erred by finding the injuries to be concurrent and by finding that employee had satisfied the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-242(a). We affirm the holding that the injuries were concurrent but find that employee did not satisfy his burden of proof under Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-242(a). We modify the judgment accordingly.

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 09/08/10