Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014
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
Paul Wayne Douthit v. Griffin Industries, Inc. et al.
M2009-01857-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jim T. Hamilton

The employee, Paul Douthit, sustained a compensable injury to his left knee, which resulted in an anatomical impairment of 2% of the leg. He was able to return to his prior employment, and his claim was settled for 3% permanent partial disability to the leg, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A). He subsequently had a second injury. A committee composed of his peers determined that both injuries were preventable, which led to his termination for violation of a company rule. He filed this petition for reconsideration in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6- 241(d)(1)(B)(ii). The trial court found that Mr. Douthit’s termination was not the result of intentional misconduct, that his conduct did not rise to the level of ordinary negligence, and that he was eligible for reconsideration. The trial court awarded an additional 9% permanent partial disability to the leg. The employer, Griffin Industries, has appealed, contending that “intentional misconduct” is an incorrect standard, that the findings of the peer committee are not reviewable, and that the trial court, therefore, erred in reconsidering the settlement. We agree that the “intentional misconduct” standard is not in conformity with existing case law, but affirm the trial court’s determination that the employee was eligible to seek reconsideration.

Giles County Workers Compensation Panel 09/08/10
Lee Meeks v. Hartford Insurance Company
W2009-01919-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Allen W. Wallace
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

The employee sustained two compensable injuries on the same day. Before he reached maximum medical improvement, all of the stock in his employer was sold to another corporation. The trial court held that this transaction caused a loss of employment for purposes of Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d) and awarded 33% permanent partial disability to the left arm, an amount in excess of one and one-half times the anatomical impairment. On appeal, the employer contends that the trial court erred in finding that a loss of employment occurred as a result of the change of ownership and that the award is excessive. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/30/10
Susie Tomlinson v. Zurich American Insurance
W2009-01350-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Allen W. Wallace
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

The sole issue presented in this workers’ compensation claim is whether a corporate transaction involving the sale of the employer amounted to a loss of employment for purposes of Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d). The trial court found that it did and awarded permanent disability benefits in excess of one and one-half times the anatomical impairment. On appeal, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 08/30/10
John Cartlidge v. State of Tennessee
W2009-01677-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Allen W. Wallace
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Nancy Miller-Herron

Employee suffered a compensable back injury in the course of his employment for the State of Tennessee. The Claims Commission found that he was permanently and totally disabled. On appeal, the State contends that the evidence preponderates against the finding of permanent total disability. We affirm the judgment.

Jackson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/27/10
Lori Turner v. Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc., et al.
E2009-00922-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V. Hollars

This workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51 for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Lori Turner (“Employee”) sought reconsideration of her prior workers’ compensation settlement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(a)(2). Her claim had been settled for 14% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) to the body as a whole, based upon a 7% anatomical impairment. Upon reconsideration, the trial court awarded an additional 21% PPD, for a total of 35% PPD to the body as a whole. Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc. (“Employer”) has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the amount of the award. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

Cumberland County Workers Compensation Panel 08/26/10
Joe Lynn Hughes v. Robert Brent D/B/A Apartment Maintenance Specialists, et al.
E2009-01377-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge John S. McClellan, III

In this workers’ compensation action, the trial court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the employee’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations, Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-203, because the employee had not filed a request for benefit review conference within one year of the date of injury. The employee, Joe Lynn Hughes, has appealed, contending that the statute was tolled by his timely filing of a request for assistance. We agree, reverse the grant of summary judgment, and remand the case to the trial court

Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 08/25/10
Builders Mutual Insurance Company v. Robert W. Daughtrey
E2009-01106-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Sharon Bell
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

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 alleged that he sustained a compensable injury to his left arm. His employer denied the claim, contending that the injury was not caused by the employment, and also that the employee had failed to provide notice of his injury as required by the workers’ compensation statute. The trial court found that the injury was work-related, and awarded 60% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) to the left arm. On appeal, the employer argues that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings on these issues, and that the trial court erred by failing to apply the missing witness rule as to the potential testimony of the treating physicians. We find no error, and affirm the judgment.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 08/25/10