Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 09/02/2014
Format: 09/02/2014
Sherry Lawrence v. Erin Truckways, Ltd. d/b/a Digby Truck Line, Inc., and The Travelers Insurance Company
01S01-9512-CV-00216
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Walter C. Kurtz,
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. The trial court awarded plaintiff 1% permanent vocational disability. Defendants challenge the trial court's finding of permanent impairment and the trial court's finding of 1% permanent vocational disability. We find that the evidence preponderates in favor of a finding of a compensable permanent injury. We find, however, that the evidence preponderates against an award of 1% permanent vocational disability. W e find the evidence preponderates in favor of a finding of 75% permanent partial vocational disability. We so modify the judgment of the trial court and, as modified, affirm it. Plaintiff, 41, has a tenth-grade education. Her past work history includes work as a waitress, bartender, factory worker and a truck driver. On October 3, 199, plaintiff and her husband were driving for defendant when plaintiff fell from the truck cab as she was trying to open a partially stuck passenger door. She was diagnosed with a sprain to the right upper back and right neck and admitted to the hospital for an unstable diabetic condition. She was also visited by a psychiatrist while at the hospital for depression and sleeplessness. Since her injury, plaintiff has developed chronic pain in her neck and back and eventually in her lower back. She never returned to work for the defendant but, in 1992, she began working as a bartender. She quit after ten months due to pain. Plaintiff was first treated by Dr. Gurumurthy Reddy, an orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed a neck and upper back strain and noted muscle spasm and limitation of range of motion of the neck. He last saw her on January 31, 1991, when he diagnosed myofascial neck and upper back pain and released her to return to work on a trial basis. Plaintiff was eventually treated by Dr. Dennis Aguirre, an anesthesiologist. He diagnosed fibromyalgia in August 1993. He testified that fibromyalgia is a 2
Lawrence County Workers Compensation Panel 07/08/96
Brenda Gail Ward v. United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company
03S01-9509-CH-00109
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Billy Joe White,
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's insurer contends the evidence preponderates against the award of permanent disability benefits. The panel concludes the judgment should be reversed and the cased dismissed. The only issue litigated at trial was the extent of the claimant's permanent disability, if any. On February 19, 1993, the employee or claimant, Brenda Gail Ward, was sweeping a floor for her employer, United Parcel Service, when she suddenly slipped and fell, injuring her back, neck and shoulder. On April 7, 1993, she visited Dr. David Hauge, who treated her until January 26, 1994. Dr. Hauge diagnosed chronic degenerative changes unrelated to the above accident. His diagnosis was confirmed by an MRI of the spine. He found no evidence of an acute injury, except some muscle spasm which was resolved with physical therapy. He estimated her permanent impairment from her degenerative changes at nine percent to the whole body, but provided no proof of medical causal connection to the work-related accident. Approximately two years after the accident, the claimant was evaluated by Dr. William E. Kennedy, who found no permanent anatomical injury or change as a result of the work-related accident, but assessed her permanent impairment from her subjective complaints of pain at eight percent to the whole person. A vocational expert, Norman Hankins, estimated her industrial disability at between thirty-four and sixty-one percent, depending on her physical restrictions. The chancellor awarded permanent partial disability benefits based on forty-five percent to the body as a whole. Appellate review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings of the trial court, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(2). This tribunal is required to conduct an independent examination of the record to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies.
Campbell County Workers Compensation Panel 06/25/96
Anna Lue Mckamey v. Red Kap Industries
03S01-9505-CH-00053
Authoring Judge: William H. Inman, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Frank V. Williams, III
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. The appellant suffered a stroke while working on an assembly line. Substantial disability resulted, which she alleges is compensable as being accident- related. The trial judge disagreed, and she appeals. Our review is de novo, with the presumption that the judgment is correct unless the evidence otherwise preponderates. TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6-225(e)(2). Mrs. McKamey is 49 years old, with limited skills and education. Her assembly-line job involved the sewing of shirt collar stays, which may be fairly described as repetitive and monotonous. On May 12, 1992, while working the 7: a.m. to 3:3 p.m. shift, she suffered a stroke shortly before the end of her shift which resulted in total vocational disability. She alleges that, like all other employees, she was expected to make production, with its attendant pressures and tensions, which caused or contributed to the stroke. Causation is the dispositive issue. The proof revealed that Mrs. McKamey had been suffering from hypertension for years and had been regularly taking medication for that disease since 1988. She had smoked cigarettes since age 14; at the time of her stroke, she smoked more than twenty per day. Responding to a hypothetical question, Dr. John Purvis, a neurosurgeon, testified that the sewing of hundreds of collar stays during a regular shift could be a contributory factor to the cerebral accident, depending upon a resolution of certain factors, those being arteriosclerosis and hypertension, the former being aggravated or caused by smoking which "played a part" and contributed to her pre-existing condition. The inducing causes of her stroke was the rupture of a blood vessel. After reviewing a videotape of the assembly-line workers, Dr. Purvis testified as -2-
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 06/25/96
Joseph Jarreau v. Vanliner Insurance Company
01S01-9512-CH-00228
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Bobby Capers,
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. This appeal presents the questions whether and under what circumstances, if any, an injured worker may give up his right to future medical expenses. The panel concludes the trial court's judgment, approving a settlement in which the right to future medical expenses was voluntarily surrendered for consideration, should be affirmed. The employee or claimant, Jarreau, commenced this civil action by filing a complaint for workers' compensation benefits, averring that he had suffered an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment by Ozark Motor Lines, Inc. The complaint further averred, in relevant part, that his injury had been diagnosed as a tear of the left medial meniscus, that he had reached maximum medical recovery and would retain a permanent impairment but that there was a genuine dispute as to the extent of his permanent disability. He sought to recover medical and permanent partial disability benefits. Vanliner Insurance Company served its answer admitting it was the insurer for Ozark, but denying that the claimant had suffered a compensable injury or that he was permanently disabled. On September 8, 1994, before the case could be tried, the claimant and his attorney and the attorney for Vanliner appeared before Judge Capers seeking approval of a negotiated settlement. By the settlement terms, the claimant was to receive $25,459.2, representing a permanent partial disability of forty percent to the left leg, and an additional $9,54.8 in consideration of the claimant's relinquishment of any claim for future medical benefits, for a total of $35,.. Additionally, the claimant had already received $15,481.3 in medical benefits and $12,481.3 in temporary total disability benefits. We find in the record no transcript of the settlement hearing, but Judge Capers found that Dr. Robert V. Russell had opined the claimant had reached maximum medical improvement and would retain a permanent anatomical impairment of ten percent to the leg. The judge further found the settlement to be in the best interest of the claimant, "in light of the controversy and dispute between the parties." The agreement was approved as a full, final and complete settlement of Mr. Jarreau's claim against the employer and its insurer. Almost eight months later, on April 28, 1995, the claimant applied to the court, per Tenn. R. Civ. P. 6.2, for an order setting aside the settlement 2
Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 06/25/96
Debbie G. Farrow v. Phillips Consumer Electronics Company
03S01-9508-CV-00089
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Wheeler Rosenbalm,
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 employee or claimant, Farrow, contends the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that her injury did not arise out of her employment. The panel concludes that the judgment should be reversed and the case remanded for an award of benefits. On October 6, 1993, the claimant was injured while she was hurriedly walking from her work station to the cafeteria at the start of a ten minute break period. She had almost reached the stop of a stairway when she came down hard on her foot, injuring her knee. She suffered internal knee derangement, according to the operating surgeon. The trial judge found that the injury occurred in the course of employment, but did not arise out of the employment, as required. Appellate 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). Conclusions of law are subject to de novo review without any presumption of correctness. Presley v. Bennett, 86 S.W.2d 857 (Tenn. 1993). Generally, an injury arises out of employment if it has a rational causal connection to the work; and any reasonable doubt as to whether an injury arose out of the employment or not is to be resolved in favor of the employee. Hall v. Auburntown Industries, Inc., 684 S.W.2d 614 (Tenn. 1985); White v. Werthan Industries, 824 S.W.2d 158 (Tenn. 1992). Where an employee is injured on the employer's premises during a break period provided by the employer, such an injury is generally compensable. Wellington v. John Morrell and Co., 619 S.W.2d 116 (Tenn. 1981); Drew v. Tappan Co., 63 S.W.2d 624 (Tenn. 1982); Holder v. Wilson Sporting Goods Co., 723 S.W.2d 14 (Tenn. 1987). The rule is derived from the notion that an employer who directs or permits his employees to eat at a place provided for that purpose or otherwise within the premises, owes such employees the same duty of protection from danger there that it does at the place where the employees work. Johnson Coffee Co. v. McDonald, 143 Tenn. 55, 226 S.W. 215 (192). On the strength of those authorities, the panel finds that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding and in favor of a finding that the claimant's injury is compensable. The judgment of the trial court is accordingly reversed and the case remanded to the trial court for an award of benefits. Costs on appeal are taxed to the defendant-appellee. 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 06/25/96
Farhad Yasin Sorani v. Royal Insurance Company of America and Kenco Plastics, Inc.
01S01-9510-CH-00179
Authoring Judge: Ben H. Cantrell, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Jane W Heatcraft, Judge
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. The trial judge awarded compensation to the worker based on 5% permanent partial disability to both arms. Because we find that the evidence preponderates against the award, we modify it to 25% disability to both arms. I. Mr. Sorani, an Iraqi Kurdish refugee, went to work for Kenco Plastics, Inc. on or about February 1, 1994. His duties included gripping and cutting plastic, and involved repetitive hand movements. On May 16, 1994 he went to the Sumner County Regional Medical Center complaining of soreness in his left arm. He was diagnosed with tendonitis and put on light duty for seven days. On June 24, 1994 Mr. Sorani consulted an orthopaedic specialist for pain and numbness in both hands. An examination resulted in a diagnosis of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. On July 2, 1994 he was referred to another specialist, for complaints of numbness and tingling in the fingers of both hands. This specialist confirmed the carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis and concluded that it was caused or aggravated by the work at Kenco Plastics. The doctor treated Mr. Sorani conservatively until October 28, 1994 when he performed carpal tunnel release surgery on the right hand. Following the surgery, Mr. Sorani suffered from an involuntary "triggering" movement in the ring finger on his right hand. His doctor thought that the condition would improve on its own if he was given three weeks rest. The doctor - 2 -
Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/96
Farhad Yasin Sorani v. Royal Insurance Company of America and Kenco Plastics, Inc.
01S01-9510-CH-00179
Authoring Judge: Ben H. Cantrell, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Jane W Heatcraft, Judge
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. The trial judge awarded compensation to the worker based on 5% permanent partial disability to both arms. Because we find that the evidence preponderates against the award, we modify it to 25% disability to both arms. I. Mr. Sorani, an Iraqi Kurdish refugee, went to work for Kenco Plastics, Inc. on or about February 1, 1994. His duties included gripping and cutting plastic, and involved repetitive hand movements. On May 16, 1994 he went to the Sumner County Regional Medical Center complaining of soreness in his left arm. He was diagnosed with tendonitis and put on light duty for seven days. On June 24, 1994 Mr. Sorani consulted an orthopaedic specialist for pain and numbness in both hands. An examination resulted in a diagnosis of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. On July 2, 1994 he was referred to another specialist, for complaints of numbness and tingling in the fingers of both hands. This specialist confirmed the carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis and concluded that it was caused or aggravated by the work at Kenco Plastics. The doctor treated Mr. Sorani conservatively until October 28, 1994 when he performed carpal tunnel release surgery on the right hand. Following the surgery, Mr. Sorani suffered from an involuntary "triggering" movement in the ring finger on his right hand. His doctor thought that the condition would improve on its own if he was given three weeks rest. The doctor - 2 -
Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/96
Kathy Shrum v. Insurance Company of The State of Pennsylvania
01S01-9511-CH-00205
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. C. K. Smith,
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. This appeal by Defendant, Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, has resulted from the action of the trial court in authorizing the employee to seek treatment from a physician not designated by the employer. The dispute has arisen after the parties reached a settlement of all issues, and it relates to post- judgment treatment of plaintiff, Kathy Shrum. During February, 1995, an order of compromise and settlement was entered stating the employee was to receive an award of permanent disability benefits based on a 4.17% disability to the body as a whole. The order recited plaintiff was to remain under the care of Dr. Dave A. Alexander, an orthopedic surgeon, who had performed surgery on plaintiff and who was her treating physician for carpal tunnel syndrome injuries. Dr. Alexander had been designated along with two other surgeons by the Defendant as medical care providers pursuant to our statute. After providing for the furnishing of future medical expenses, the order recited The parties specifically recognize that defendant has not accepted as compensable and will not pay medical benefits related to any condition other than plaintiff's alleged bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome in light of the fact that there is medical proof which suggests that plaintiff suffers from a congenital condition known as cervical ribs which might be responsible for some of plaintiff's current symptomatology. On May 19, 1995, plaintiff filed a motion reciting she had not been receiving satisfactory medical attention and requested the court to choose an independent physician to treat her or to allow plaintiff to choose her own treating physician. Defendant filed a response opposing the request and alleged there was no evidence to support her claim as she had not been treated since April 4, 1994. On June 19, 1995, an order was entered by the trial court, stating " . . . Plaintiff is not satisfied with the doctors submitted to treat plaintiff by defendant . . ." -2-
Macon County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/96
Kathy Shrum v. Insurance Company of The State of Pennsylvania
01S01-9511-CH-00205
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. C. K. Smith,
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. This appeal by Defendant, Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, has resulted from the action of the trial court in authorizing the employee to seek treatment from a physician not designated by the employer. The dispute has arisen after the parties reached a settlement of all issues, and it relates to post- judgment treatment of plaintiff, Kathy Shrum. During February, 1995, an order of compromise and settlement was entered stating the employee was to receive an award of permanent disability benefits based on a 4.17% disability to the body as a whole. The order recited plaintiff was to remain under the care of Dr. Dave A. Alexander, an orthopedic surgeon, who had performed surgery on plaintiff and who was her treating physician for carpal tunnel syndrome injuries. Dr. Alexander had been designated along with two other surgeons by the Defendant as medical care providers pursuant to our statute. After providing for the furnishing of future medical expenses, the order recited The parties specifically recognize that defendant has not accepted as compensable and will not pay medical benefits related to any condition other than plaintiff's alleged bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome in light of the fact that there is medical proof which suggests that plaintiff suffers from a congenital condition known as cervical ribs which might be responsible for some of plaintiff's current symptomatology. On May 19, 1995, plaintiff filed a motion reciting she had not been receiving satisfactory medical attention and requested the court to choose an independent physician to treat her or to allow plaintiff to choose her own treating physician. Defendant filed a response opposing the request and alleged there was no evidence to support her claim as she had not been treated since April 4, 1994. On June 19, 1995, an order was entered by the trial court, stating " . . . Plaintiff is not satisfied with the doctors submitted to treat plaintiff by defendant . . ." -2-
Macon County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/96
Corbin B. Scroggins v. Kenneth Ray Ely
03S01-9510-CH-00121
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Frederick D. Mcdonald
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. The issue in this case is whether the trial judge erred in granting a summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff's petition for workers' compensation benefits because there is no jurisdiction over this case in Tennessee. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. The relevant facts in the case are simple. On or around May 17, 1991, the plaintiff learned that Ely's Trucking, a Knoxville company, had a possible opening for a driver. The plaintiff learned this from another driver, who lived, as did the plaintiff, in Nebraska. The plaintiff called Ely's Trucking Company from his home in Nebraska. Ray Ely, the owner of the trucking company, and plaintiff discussed plaintiff's desire to work for Ely. The plaintiff's testimony, taken by deposition, clearly shows Ely made an offer of employment to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff accepted the offer at his home in Nebraska, where he was when the discussion took place. There was no written contract of employment between the plaintiff and Ely. The only document signed by the parties was a listing of benefits the plaintiff had with Ely's Trucking. This was signed on May 21, 1991 in Knoxville. The injury of which the plaintiff complained did not occur in Tennessee. The Chancellor found there was no jurisdiction to try the case in Tennessee. The evidence supports this finding. There was no contract of employment entered into in Tennessee, nor was the employment principally localized within this state as required by TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6-115 to give jurisdiction to this state. The contract was completed in Nebraska when the plaintiff accepted the employment offer from Ely. Tolley v. General Accident Fire & Life Ins. Corp., 584 S.W.2d 647 (Tenn. 1979). We affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand the case thereto with costs assessed to the plaintiff. 2
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/96
John Primm v. Ucar Carbon Company, Inc.
01S01-9511-CV-00204
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Jim T. Hamilton,
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. Defendant, UCAR Carbon Company, Inc., has appealed from the action of the trial court in awarding plaintiff, John Primm, 65% permanent partial disability benefits to the body as a whole. Defendant contends the trial court was in error (1) in awarding 65% disability to the body as a whole, (2) in denying Defendant a set-off for payments of short-term disability insurance benefits and (3) in commuting the award to one lump sum payment. Plaintiff is 63 years of age and has a 12th grade education. He has followed construction work for many years and had worked for Defendant for 13 years prior to the time in question. During October, 1993, he was injured while using a pry bar to move a heavy metal plate. He said he felt a pinch in his back and shoulder and reported the injury to his employer. He continued to work on and off for different periods of time until his surgical procedures were over. After finally being released by his physician, he told the trial court he could not work at his old job and he elected to retire during March, 1995. The testimony of Dr. Eslick Daniel, an orthopedic surgeon, was presented by deposition. He indicated he first saw plaintiff on November 3, 1993, when he noted plaintiff had degenerative disc disease of his back and early arthritic changes of his shoulder. His first diagnosis was a shoulder and back strain and he said plaintiff did not indicate his problem was work-related. Upon seeing him a second time, his diagnosis was a rotator cuff strain with some tendinitis. He noted that between the two visits the patient had also seen a hospital emergency room doctor. Dr. Daniel had scheduled a CT Scan but plaintiff declined to take the test as he said the doctor had accused him of "faking" the injury. Dr. Daniel did not recall nor deny this conversation. Plaintiff decided to see another doctor designated by Defendant. This physician referred him to Dr. Greg Lanford, a neurosurgeon, who examined plaintiff 2
Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/96
John Primm v. Ucar Carbon Company, Inc.
01S01-9511-CV-00204
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Jim T. Hamilton,
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. Defendant, UCAR Carbon Company, Inc., has appealed from the action of the trial court in awarding plaintiff, John Primm, 65% permanent partial disability benefits to the body as a whole. Defendant contends the trial court was in error (1) in awarding 65% disability to the body as a whole, (2) in denying Defendant a set-off for payments of short-term disability insurance benefits and (3) in commuting the award to one lump sum payment. Plaintiff is 63 years of age and has a 12th grade education. He has followed construction work for many years and had worked for Defendant for 13 years prior to the time in question. During October, 1993, he was injured while using a pry bar to move a heavy metal plate. He said he felt a pinch in his back and shoulder and reported the injury to his employer. He continued to work on and off for different periods of time until his surgical procedures were over. After finally being released by his physician, he told the trial court he could not work at his old job and he elected to retire during March, 1995. The testimony of Dr. Eslick Daniel, an orthopedic surgeon, was presented by deposition. He indicated he first saw plaintiff on November 3, 1993, when he noted plaintiff had degenerative disc disease of his back and early arthritic changes of his shoulder. His first diagnosis was a shoulder and back strain and he said plaintiff did not indicate his problem was work-related. Upon seeing him a second time, his diagnosis was a rotator cuff strain with some tendinitis. He noted that between the two visits the patient had also seen a hospital emergency room doctor. Dr. Daniel had scheduled a CT Scan but plaintiff declined to take the test as he said the doctor had accused him of "faking" the injury. Dr. Daniel did not recall nor deny this conversation. Plaintiff decided to see another doctor designated by Defendant. This physician referred him to Dr. Greg Lanford, a neurosurgeon, who examined plaintiff 2
Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/96
Donna F. Peace v. Southern Home Carpet, Inc.
03S01-9512-CH-00134
Authoring Judge: William H. Inman, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Hon. H. David Cate
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. The issue on appeal is whether the Chancellor correctly denied the motion of the appellant that her award of benefits should be paid in lump sum. The husband of appellant suffered a fatal heart attack on February 1, 1995. For his death, she sought workers' compensation benefits as the sole surviving beneficiary, and the settlement of her claim, $382.79 weekly for 4 weeks, was approved by the Chancellor who declined to approve a lump sum payment. Accrued benefits were $8,2., timely paid. The plaintiff is 45 years old, a high school graduate, and is currently employed as a dental assistant, earning net pay of $1,3. monthly. She has no children and is the sole support of her disabled mother for whose care she pays $866.67 monthly. Her disposable income from all sources (inclusive of her mothers' SSI of $4.) is $3,358.76. The balance owing on her home mortgage is $45,., which she proposed to discharge; her monthly living expenses, including a mortgage payment and the expenses of her mother's care, are about $2,9.. The Chancellor observed that this is not a case where periodic payments are not needed as a substitute for wages. See Ponder v. Manchester Housing Auth., 87 S.W.2d 282 (Tenn. 1994). TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6-279 authorizes lump sum payments of awards, with instructions to the trial court to consider the best interest of the employee together with his ability to wisely manage and control the award. The Chancellor expressly found that a lump sum would not be in the best interest of the plaintiff, whose ability to manage a large sum was questionable since she could not account for 25% of the accrued payments and has failed to file income tax returns for the last five (5) years. We fully concur in the Chancellor's judgment and find no abuse of discretion. Henson v. City of Lawrenceburg, 851 S.W.2d 89, 813-14 (Tenn. 1993). The judgment is affirmed at the costs of the appellant.
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/96