Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 08/27/2014
Format: 08/27/2014
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
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