Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 12/20/2014
Format: 12/20/2014
Anne Marie Smith v. Intex Enterprises, LLC
E2009-02557-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

The employee filed a motion to compel her employer to provide medical treatment pursuant to a court-approved settlement concerning a claim for an injury sustained in 2002. Her employer opposed the motion, contending that any medical treatment sought by the employee was due to a separate injury sustained in 2004. In the settlement of the 2004 claim, the employee had waived her right to future medical treatment. The trial court granted the employee’s motion, and her employer has appealed. We conclude that the employee’s claim for medical treatment is not ripe for judicial resolution, and vacate the trial court’s order.

Anderson County Workers Compensation Panel 03/07/11
Mancel Seals v. Lear Corporation
E2009-01408-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge:

This case is before the Court upon the entire record, including the order of referral to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel, and the Panel's Memorandum Opinion setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law, which are incorporated herein by reference. Whereupon, it appeals to the Court that the Memorandum Opinion of the Panel should be accepted and approved; and It is, therefore, ordered that the Panel's findings of fact and conclusions of law are adopted and affirmed, and the decision of the Panel is made the judgment of the Court. Costs of this appeal are adjudged against the Employer, Lear Corporation, and its sureties, for which execution may issue if necessary.

Hamblen County Workers Compensation Panel 03/03/11
Builders Mutual Insurance Company v. S & W Builders, Inc. and Timothy Morris v. S & W Builders, Inc.
W2009-01920-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

In this workers’ compensation action, the trial court held that the employee sustained a compensable injury to his neck. The trial court found that the employee had a 30% impairment as a result of the injury and awarded 75% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The employer had two policies of workers’ compensation insurance in effect on the date of the injury. The trial court held each insurer liable for one-half of the benefits paid to the employee. One of the insurers has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the finding that the employee sustained a compensable injury and that it erred in its apportionment of liability. We affirm1 the judgment.

Hardin County Workers Compensation Panel 03/03/11
Omer Lee Dixon, Jr. v. Travelers Indemnity Company
W2010-00339-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

The primary issue presented in this appeal is whether an employee, who was injured when a tornado struck the tractor-trailer rig he was driving for his employer, has a compensable workers’ compensation claim. The central dispute between the parties is whether the claim arose out of the employment relationship. After careful review, we conclude that the employee was injured when he was subjected to a hazard not common to the general public but peculiar to the nature of his employment and to the conditions under which his employment was required to be performed. Accordingly, the injury arose out of his employment. The trial court’s judgment holding the employee’s claim to be compensable and its award of benefits is affirmed.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 03/03/11
Sarah Louise Bean v. Tepro, Inc.
M2010-00264-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox

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. Sarah Louise Bean (“Employee”) sustained bilateral shoulder injuries in the course and scope of her employment with Tepro, Inc. (“Employer”). After undergoing surgery on both shoulders, she was released to return to work. Employer was facing  reduced work volume at this time, and Employee worked only one day over the course of the next two months. She worked sporadically during the next four months and then was laid off indefinitely due to economic conditions. During the layoff, she applied for and received Social Security disability benefits. When she was called back to work after four months of layoff, she declined to return. At trial, the trial judge heard proof regarding the extent of Employee’s permanent physical impairment from Employee’s evaluating physician, Employee’s treating physician, and a Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”) physician. After the conclusion of the proof, the trial court determined that Employee had sustained a permanent physical impairment of 19% to the body as a whole, that the impairment rating assigned by the MIR physician was rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, that the Employee was subject to the cap imposed by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A), and that she was entitled to an award of 28% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits. Both parties challenge the trial court’s decision. After review, we modify the award of PPD to 21%, reduce the award of discretionary costs by $800, and affirm the remainder of the trial court’s judgment.

Bedford County Workers Compensation Panel 02/28/11
Linda Lee Kenney v. Shiroki North America, Inc. et al.
M2009-02484-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry G. Ross

The employee alleged that she sustained carpal tunnel syndrome and a right shoulder injury as a result of repetitive work activities. She was examined by several doctors provided by her employer, each of whom found that she had no permanent work injury. She sought and received treatment on her own with a physician who treated her for shoulder impingement and carpal tunnel syndrome. This doctor assigned permanent impairment but also testified that those conditions were not work-related. An evaluating physician assigned permanent impairment and testified that the conditions were work-related. Employee was a part-owner of an upholstery business during a period of time prior to the onset of her symptoms. Her testimony concerning the nature of her work for that business was inconsistent. The trial court found that she had not sustained her burden of proof and entered judgment for her employer. She has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings. We affirm the judgment.

Warren County Workers Compensation Panel 02/28/11
David Weachter v. Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company
M2010-00108-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. L. Rogers

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 was injured in a motor vehicle accident. It is undisputed that his injuries were compensable and that he is permanently and totally disabled as a result of the accident. The issues on appeal are the propriety of the trial court’s calculation of the average weekly wage, the trial court’s denial of a set-off to Employer for a settlement with the third party tortfeasor, and the award of vocational expert witness fees. We find that the trial court correctly calculated the average weekly wage, but erred by denying the set-off and awarding the expert’s fees. The judgment is modified accordingly.

Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 02/28/11
Timothy Ruskin v. Ledic Realty Services, Ltd.
W2009-02595-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee, Timothy Ruskin, worked as a maintenance technician for Ledic Realty Services, Ltd. (Ledic), which managed several apartment buildings. Mr. Ruskin was injured while responding to an after-hours call from a tenant of one of the apartment buildings. In response to his compensation claim, Ledic asserted as an affirmative defense that Mr. Ruskin’s injuries resulted from his intoxication. After a hearing, the trial court ruled in Ledic’s favor, and Mr. Ruskin appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 02/25/11
Prianglam Brooks v. Correctional Medical Services
W2010-00266-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong

Employee sustained a compensable injury to her lower back. Employer initially provided medical treatment, but Employer’s insurer subsequently declined to provide additional medical treatment. Employee sought treatment on her own. Her treating physician found that she retained a 15% permanent impairment as a result of her injury. An examining physician for Employer opined that she had no impairment. A physician was selected through the Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”) process. That physician also stated that Employee had no permanent impairment. The trial court found that Employee rebutted the presumption of correctness of the MIR physician’s rating by clear and convincing evidence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(d)(5) and awarded 20% permanent partial disability. Both sides appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 02/25/11
Timothy Cook v. General Motors Corporation
M2010-00272-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

The Employee suffered a compensable injury while working on an automobile assembly line. A few months after the Employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, his employer, through a highly-publicized bankruptcy, sold a majority of its assets to a newly created entity. The trial court held that because the Employee, who was employed by the new entity, had not returned to work for his pre-injury employer, he was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits in excess of the cap established by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A). The employer has appealed, contending that the unique circumstances of its bankruptcy sale compel this Panel to rule that the Employee returned to work for his pre-injury employer. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Workers Compensation Panel 02/16/11
Carolyn Berry v. Armstrong Wood Products
W2009-02070-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

Employee filed a complaint for workers’ compensation benefits against her former employer alleging that her work for her former employer advanced pre-existing arthritis in both knees and required her to have joint replacement surgery on her right knee. The employer denied her claim, contending that her condition was unrelated to her employment. The trial court found that she had sustained a compensable aggravation of her arthritis and that she had not had a meaningful return to work. It awarded 78% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) to the body as a whole. The employer appealed,1 contending that the trial court erred by finding the award was not subject to the one and one-half times impairment cap found in Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A). We agree with employer that employee is entitled to an award of one and one-half times her impairment rating and decrease the award to 39% PPD to the body as a whole. We affirm the judgment as modified.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 02/16/11
Wasau Insurance Company v. Archie Richardson
E2010-00356-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Walter C. Kurtz, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

The employee alleged that he injured his back in the course of his employment. His employers denied the claim based upon failure to give timely notice of the injury. The employee saw two medical doctors and a chiropractor shortly after his injury. Their records contained no reference to a work injury; one stated that the injury had happened at home. The trial court found that the employee did not provide timely notice of his alleged injury and, alternatively, that he failed to sustain his burden of proof concerning causation. The employee has appealed from those findings. We affirm the judgment.

Loudon County Workers Compensation Panel 02/16/11
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
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