Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 04/16/2014
Format: 04/16/2014
Ray Donald Hawkins v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County Tennessee
01S01-9508-CV-00126
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.,
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 sued his employer for workers' compensation benefits covering mental and emotional disability which resulted from being informed that he was about to be fired. The trial judge dismissed the action because it did not state a claim on which relief could be granted. We conclude that the judgment should be affirmed. I. The complaint alleged that the appellant had worked for the Nashville Electric Service for thirty-one years, serving finally as Executive Assistant General Manager. On March 11, 1992, one hour before a scheduled meeting of the Power Board, a Board member informed the appellant that at the meeting the Board would vote to dismiss him. Although the rumor turned out to be false, the appellant alleged that the shock and fright produced by the unwelcome news caused such mental and emotional stress that he became permanently disabled. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The trial judge initially overruled the motion but decided to grant it, after further proceedings in the case. II. - 2 -
Hawkins County Workers Compensation Panel 05/03/96
Stanley Bailey v. Amre, Inc.
03S01-9511-CH-00124
Authoring Judge: William H. Inman, Senior 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. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Chancellor held " . . . really all I can do is find that the medical proof does not bear out a finding of permanent disability," and this action for workers' compensation benefits was thereupon dismissed, the propriety of which is presented for our review, which is de novo on the record accompanied by a presumption that the findings of fact of the trial court are correct unless the evidence otherwise preponderates. TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6-225(e)(2). We affirm.
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 05/02/96
Clifford E. Wells v. Jefferson City Zinc, Inc.
03S01-9509-CV-00100
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Ben Hooper,
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 employer appeals the trial court's finding that the plaintiff is 1% permanently and totally disabled, its apportionment of 7% of the liability to the employer and 3% to the Second Injury Fund and its commutation of the award to a lump sum. We modify the judgment to void the commutation of the award to a lump sum payment. As modified, we affirm the judgment. The plaintiff, 51 at the time of trial, has a ninth-grade education. His past work experience includes farming, paint spray mixing and operating and supervision of same, millwrighting, construction and working in the defendant's mines. He began working for the defendant in 1977. He suffered a back injury, possibly in the course and scope of his employment with the defendant-employer, in 1978. A lumbar laminectomy was performed in 1985 as a result of that injury. No workers' compensation claim was ever filed, and the employer did not pay any medical expenses. Plaintiff re-injured his back on February 21, 1992, while moving a pump in the course of his employment. He was laid off by the employer in June 1994, never having returned to work. Dr. John Bell, an orthopaedic surgeon, treated the plaintiff after his 1992 injury. He had also performed the plaintiff's 1985 surgery, after which he had assigned the plaintiff a 15% permanent impairment. He assigned the plaintiff a five percent impairment rating for the 1992 injury under the most recent edition of the A.M.A. Guides. He restricted the plaintiff from lifting more than 35 pounds occasionally, 2 pounds frequently, climbing and kneeling, bouncing, crouching or crawling more than occasionally. He had apparently informed the plaintiff of similar -2-
Jefferson County Workers Compensation Panel 05/01/96
Ross N. Everett v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
03S01-9508-CH-00093
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
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. Plaintiff, Ross N. Everett, has appealed from the action of the trial court in awarding 45% permanent partial disability benefits to his left leg. His primary contention is the Chancellor was in error by not finding his pre-existing arthritic condition was aggravated by the accident. Plaintiff, 71 years of age at the time of the trial, was injured on March 2, 1992, while working for the defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., when he was attempting to hang fishing lures. He testified he turned his foot to move and his knee twisted causing the injury. He related to the court a knee problem pre- existed the accident as he had seen a doctor during February, 1992. He said he was having pain and swelling in his knee, and he was unable to fully flex it. The only other witness to testify was Dr. Edwin E. Holt, an orthopedic surgeon, who testified by deposition. Dr. Holt stated his pre-existing problem in his knee was caused by arthritis; that the arthritic condition was not caused by the accident but the accident probably aggravated the arthritis by causing more pain; that the accident did not increase the arthritis; and that the accident did cause a meniscal tear which he corrected by arthroscopic surgery on September 12, 1992. Dr. Holt gave a 14% impairment rating to the left leg as a result of the meniscal tear and a 1% impairment rating to the pre-existing arthritic condition. We do not believe the Chancellor misapplied the ruling in the Cunningham v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 811 S.W.2d 888 (Tenn. 1991) case as insisted by the plaintiff. Although a question as to whether plaintiff had sustained an injury by an "accident at work" was involved, the general rule concerning aggravation of a pre- existing condition was set forth, the rule being where an employee's work aggravates a pre-existing condition by making the pain worse but does not -2-
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 05/01/96
Carol Victoria (Vicky) Pitner v. Vanderbilt Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, Employer, and Fidelity and Casualty Insurance Company of New York
01S01-9507-CH-00114
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Robert S. Brandt,
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. Plaintiff injured her right arm, shoulder and neck at work on September 26, 1988. The trial court awarded 24 percent permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. Further, the trial court ordered a credit to the employer for temporary total disability benefits paid after May 5, 1992, the date the court found as plaintiff's date of maximum medical improvement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff is 38 years old with a college degree. While working as a recreation specialist at Vanderbilt Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, she was injured as she attempted to catch a falling patient. She was treated in the Emergency Room for acute thoracic strain but continued to have pain. Further evaluation led to surgical removal of torn cartilage and the distal clavicle on August 2, 199 by Dr. J. Willis Oglesby. She did not improve, and subsequently began seeing Dr. John Campa, a neurologist, on July 1, 1991. Dr. Campa treated plaintiff with nerve blocks, injections, physiotherapy, biofeedback and anti-depressant medications. He diagnosed C5-6 subligamentous disk protrusion with secondary radiculopathy and C6-7 degenerative disk disease with secondary radiculopathy. He opined she requires further rehabilitation, including future surgery, to improve functioning and permit light to medium work. On July 21, 1993, when plaintiff advised she did not choose to have the recommended surgery, Dr. Campa opined that therefore she had reached maximum medical improvement, and assessed 24 percent medical impairment to the body as a whole under AMA Guidelines. During the period when plaintiff was being treated by Dr. Campa, she was sent back to Dr. Oglesby, the surgeon, for an independent medical examination on May 5, 1992. Dr. Oglesby opined she had reached maximum medical improvement as of that date. He assessed 1 percent permanent partial disability to her right upper extremity using the guidelines of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He limited her 2
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/26/96
Carol Victoria (Vicky) Pitner v. Vanderbilt Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, Employer, and Fidelity and Casualty Insurance Company of New York
01S01-9507-CH-00114
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Robert S. Brandt,
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. Plaintiff injured her right arm, shoulder and neck at work on September 26, 1988. The trial court awarded 24 percent permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. Further, the trial court ordered a credit to the employer for temporary total disability benefits paid after May 5, 1992, the date the court found as plaintiff's date of maximum medical improvement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff is 38 years old with a college degree. While working as a recreation specialist at Vanderbilt Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, she was injured as she attempted to catch a falling patient. She was treated in the Emergency Room for acute thoracic strain but continued to have pain. Further evaluation led to surgical removal of torn cartilage and the distal clavicle on August 2, 199 by Dr. J. Willis Oglesby. She did not improve, and subsequently began seeing Dr. John Campa, a neurologist, on July 1, 1991. Dr. Campa treated plaintiff with nerve blocks, injections, physiotherapy, biofeedback and anti-depressant medications. He diagnosed C5-6 subligamentous disk protrusion with secondary radiculopathy and C6-7 degenerative disk disease with secondary radiculopathy. He opined she requires further rehabilitation, including future surgery, to improve functioning and permit light to medium work. On July 21, 1993, when plaintiff advised she did not choose to have the recommended surgery, Dr. Campa opined that therefore she had reached maximum medical improvement, and assessed 24 percent medical impairment to the body as a whole under AMA Guidelines. During the period when plaintiff was being treated by Dr. Campa, she was sent back to Dr. Oglesby, the surgeon, for an independent medical examination on May 5, 1992. Dr. Oglesby opined she had reached maximum medical improvement as of that date. He assessed 1 percent permanent partial disability to her right upper extremity using the guidelines of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He limited her 2
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/26/96
Vera Jane King v. Travelers Insurance Company and Carter Automotive Products, Inc.
01S01-9509-CH-00155
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Charles 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. Plaintiff injured her right arm while using an air screwdriver on the assembly line at defendant's automotive products plant. The trial judge awarded her 9 percent permanent partial disability to the right arm and modified the average weekly wage and compensation rate. We find the evidence preponderates against an award of 9 percent and in favor of an award of 5 percent permanent partial disability to the right arm and affirm the judgment of the trial court as so modified. The plaintiff is 56 years old with a tenth grade education and a GED certificate. She had worked in factory assembly with defendant for 17 years at the time she was injured. On July 13, 1992, while using an air screwdriver to build fuel pumps, she experienced severe pain. Her family practice physician diagnosed acute lateral epicondylitis caused by repetitive motion. He recommended that she change jobs so that she would not have to apply pressure with her arms. He placed her on light duty and prescribed physical therapy. Her pain complaints did not improve. Dr. Fonda J. Bondurant, orthopedic surgeon, treated plaintiff for three months with cortisone injections. When plaintiff's complaints of pain still did not improve, he performed surgical release of the elbow in November of 1992. She was able to return to work in January of 1993, but worked long days and experienced recurrent pain. She was placed on a reduced work schedule of four hours per day. Plaintiff reached maximum medical improvement on April 19, 1993, and Dr. Bondurant opined she would continue to have pain and would be restricted to work that did not require repetitive motion. He found no loss of grip strength, no sensory changes, full range of elbow motion, and 3 percent permanent partial disability to the body as a whole according to AMA Guidelines as a result of her residual pain. Dr. Robert Paul Landsberg, orthopedic surgeon, conducted an independent medical examination for plaintiff's counsel on October 2, 1994. He diagnosed 2
Macon County Workers Compensation Panel 04/26/96
Linda May Kepley v. Yamakawa Manufacturing Company of America and Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Company
01S01-9505-CV-00075
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Thomas E. Gray
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 defendants appeal the trial court's award of 4% permanent partial disability to the right upper extremity. They contend that the plaintiff did not prove that she had suffered a permanent injury, that they are not liable for such injury, if it exists, due to the application of the last injurious injury rule and that, even if her injury is compensable and they are liable, the trial court's award is excessive. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. The plaintiff, 45 at the time of trial, has a G.E.D. She has worked almost exclusively in manufacturing facilities, performing mostly assembly and packing jobs. She began working for the defendant-employer in May 1991. In July 1992, she began experiencing problems with her wrists. She was eventually referred to Dr. Anderson, a neurologist, who took her off work for about three weeks. She returned to work after this respite but quit after a few months to move to Illinois to marry. She testified at trial that her arms improved while she was off work. She testified that, when she returned to work, she worked with pain and at a slower rate than she had before. She did not work for the first few months she lived in Illinois, and she testified that her arms improved over this time but that her pain never resolved, and she tried to use her left hand more often. Dr. Anderson testified that an E.M.G. performed on the plaintiff prior to her being taken off work indicated she had carpal tunnel syndrome in her left arm. This diagnosis was consistent with the plaintiff's subjective complaints and his objective findings, he testified. When she returned from Illinois to see him in November, he performed another E.M.G. on her, which indicated borderline carpal tunnel syndrome in her right arm. At the plaintiff's request, he released her to return to work. Plaintiff began working for R.G. Ray in Illinois at the end of January 1994. After about five weeks, she began experiencing pain in her wrists again, worse pain
Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 04/26/96
Linda May Kepley v. Yamakawa Manufacturing Company of America and Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Company
01S01-9505-CV-00075
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Thomas E. Gray
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 defendants appeal the trial court's award of 4% permanent partial disability to the right upper extremity. They contend that the plaintiff did not prove that she had suffered a permanent injury, that they are not liable for such injury, if it exists, due to the application of the last injurious injury rule and that, even if her injury is compensable and they are liable, the trial court's award is excessive. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. The plaintiff, 45 at the time of trial, has a G.E.D. She has worked almost exclusively in manufacturing facilities, performing mostly assembly and packing jobs. She began working for the defendant-employer in May 1991. In July 1992, she began experiencing problems with her wrists. She was eventually referred to Dr. Anderson, a neurologist, who took her off work for about three weeks. She returned to work after this respite but quit after a few months to move to Illinois to marry. She testified at trial that her arms improved while she was off work. She testified that, when she returned to work, she worked with pain and at a slower rate than she had before. She did not work for the first few months she lived in Illinois, and she testified that her arms improved over this time but that her pain never resolved, and she tried to use her left hand more often. Dr. Anderson testified that an E.M.G. performed on the plaintiff prior to her being taken off work indicated she had carpal tunnel syndrome in her left arm. This diagnosis was consistent with the plaintiff's subjective complaints and his objective findings, he testified. When she returned from Illinois to see him in November, he performed another E.M.G. on her, which indicated borderline carpal tunnel syndrome in her right arm. At the plaintiff's request, he released her to return to work. Plaintiff began working for R.G. Ray in Illinois at the end of January 1994. After about five weeks, she began experiencing pain in her wrists again, worse pain
Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 04/26/96
Vera Jane King v. Travelers Insurance Company and Carter Automotive Products, Inc.
01S01-9509-CH-00155
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Charles 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. Plaintiff injured her right arm while using an air screwdriver on the assembly line at defendant's automotive products plant. The trial judge awarded her 9 percent permanent partial disability to the right arm and modified the average weekly wage and compensation rate. We find the evidence preponderates against an award of 9 percent and in favor of an award of 5 percent permanent partial disability to the right arm and affirm the judgment of the trial court as so modified. The plaintiff is 56 years old with a tenth grade education and a GED certificate. She had worked in factory assembly with defendant for 17 years at the time she was injured. On July 13, 1992, while using an air screwdriver to build fuel pumps, she experienced severe pain. Her family practice physician diagnosed acute lateral epicondylitis caused by repetitive motion. He recommended that she change jobs so that she would not have to apply pressure with her arms. He placed her on light duty and prescribed physical therapy. Her pain complaints did not improve. Dr. Fonda J. Bondurant, orthopedic surgeon, treated plaintiff for three months with cortisone injections. When plaintiff's complaints of pain still did not improve, he performed surgical release of the elbow in November of 1992. She was able to return to work in January of 1993, but worked long days and experienced recurrent pain. She was placed on a reduced work schedule of four hours per day. Plaintiff reached maximum medical improvement on April 19, 1993, and Dr. Bondurant opined she would continue to have pain and would be restricted to work that did not require repetitive motion. He found no loss of grip strength, no sensory changes, full range of elbow motion, and 3 percent permanent partial disability to the body as a whole according to AMA Guidelines as a result of her residual pain. Dr. Robert Paul Landsberg, orthopedic surgeon, conducted an independent medical examination for plaintiff's counsel on October 2, 1994. He diagnosed 2
Macon County Workers Compensation Panel 04/26/96
Nellie Myrtle Farley v. Liberty Mutual Insurance
01S01-9509-CV-00147
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Bobby H. 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. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The defendants below appeal the trial court's award of 75% permanent partial disability to each upper extremity. They challenge the amount of the award, its commutation to a lump sum, and the trial court's award of temporary total disability benefits from May 26, 1994 to December 1, 1994. We modify the trial court's award, finding that the evidence preponderates against an award of 75% permanent partial disability to each extremity and towards a finding of 45% permanent partial disability to each extremity. As modified, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff, 63 at the time of trial, has a sixth grade education. She worked for the defendant-employer for almost 26 years. In late October 1993, she was found to have bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. She continued to work until January 3, 1994, when she took an early retirement. She testified at trial that she retired early because her arms were "messed up." Carpal tunnel releases were performed in February and May 1994. At trial, she testified that she reached maximum medical improvement in early December 1994. She has not applied for any job since her retirement. Dr. Abbey, an orthopedic surgeon, treated the plaintiff and testified, by deposition, on behalf of the defendant. He testified that the plaintiff did well post- operatively and that he assigned her a zero percent impairment rating. He also testified that after he assigned her this rating, the plaintiff had problems with swelling and discomfort and, between the two surgeries, she developed triggering in her left long finger. He opined that the plaintiff reached maximum medical improvement on May 23, 1994 for her carpal tunnel syndrome, although she probably had not reached that stage for her triggering finger. He assigned no permanent restrictions. Dr. Robert Paul Landsberg, another orthopedist, examined the plaintiff at the request of her attorney and testified, also by deposition, on her behalf. He
Trousdale County Workers Compensation Panel 04/26/96
Nellie Myrtle Farley v. Liberty Mutual Insurance
01S01-9509-CV-00147
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
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. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The defendants below appeal the trial court's award of 75% permanent partial disability to each upper extremity. They challenge the amount of the award, its commutation to a lump sum, and the trial court's award of temporary total disability benefits from May 26, 1994 to December 1, 1994. We modify the trial court's award, finding that the evidence preponderates against an award of 75% permanent partial disability to each extremity and towards a finding of 45% permanent partial disability to each extremity. As modified, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff, 63 at the time of trial, has a sixth grade education. She worked for the defendant-employer for almost 26 years. In late October 1993, she was found to have bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. She continued to work until January 3, 1994, when she took an early retirement. She testified at trial that she retired early because her arms were "messed up." Carpal tunnel releases were performed in February and May 1994. At trial, she testified that she reached maximum medical improvement in early December 1994. She has not applied for any job since her retirement. Dr. Abbey, an orthopedic surgeon, treated the plaintiff and testified, by deposition, on behalf of the defendant. He testified that the plaintiff did well post- operatively and that he assigned her a zero percent impairment rating. He also testified that after he assigned her this rating, the plaintiff had problems with swelling and discomfort and, between the two surgeries, she developed triggering in her left long finger. He opined that the plaintiff reached maximum medical improvement on May 23, 1994 for her carpal tunnel syndrome, although she probably had not reached that stage for her triggering finger. He assigned no permanent restrictions. Dr. Robert Paul Landsberg, another orthopedist, examined the plaintiff at the request of her attorney and testified, also by deposition, on her behalf. He
Trousdale County Workers Compensation Panel 04/26/96
Richard Harris v. Triangle Auto Springs Company
01S01-9510-CV-00176
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., 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. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer, Triangle Auto Springs Company, contends (1) the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by commuting such award to a lump sum. The panel concludes that the judgment should be modified as provided herein. On October 4, 1991, the employee or claimant, Richard H. Harris, felt a sharp pain in his back while lifting an automobile spring at work for the employer. The employer referred him to the Mid-Tennessee Bone and Joint Clinic where his injury was diagnosed as a probable ruptured disk. Medication was prescribed and he returned to work. When he did not improve from conservative care, a CAT scan was ordered, which confirmed a ruptured disk in the low back, with L5 radiculopathy from a pinched nerve. Ultimately, the claimant was referred to Dr. Robert Weiss, who performed a lumbar laminectomy. The surgery was successful and the claimant was finally released from the surgeon's care with a weight lifting limitation of fifty pounds occasionally and thirty pounds repetitively. Dr. Weiss estimated his permanent anatomical impairment at ten percent from guidelines of the American Medical Association. The claimant returned to work for Triangle in January of 1993, but in a lighter position, where he could work within his limitations. When he was laid off from that position and no other was found within his limitations, he attempted to rehabilitate himself by returning to college and studying toward an Associate of Science degree. The employer paid half of his expenses. At the time of the trial, he was working as a technician in the Physical Therapy Department at Maury Regional Hospital. He is studying to become a physical therapist. The claimant and his wife own their home and are current on their debts, a home mortgage and a debt secured by their 1993 Jeep Cherokee. They have been married for sixteen years and have a young daughter. The trial judge found, among other things, that the claimant had a permanent partial disability of sixty percent to the body as a whole and awarded benefits accordingly, which he commuted to a lump sum. 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). This tribunal is required to conduct an independent examination of the record to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies.
Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 03/14/96
Richard Harris v. Triangle Auto Springs Company
01S01-9510-CV-00176
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., 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. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer, Triangle Auto Springs Company, contends (1) the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by commuting such award to a lump sum. The panel concludes that the judgment should be modified as provided herein. On October 4, 1991, the employee or claimant, Richard H. Harris, felt a sharp pain in his back while lifting an automobile spring at work for the employer. The employer referred him to the Mid-Tennessee Bone and Joint Clinic where his injury was diagnosed as a probable ruptured disk. Medication was prescribed and he returned to work. When he did not improve from conservative care, a CAT scan was ordered, which confirmed a ruptured disk in the low back, with L5 radiculopathy from a pinched nerve. Ultimately, the claimant was referred to Dr. Robert Weiss, who performed a lumbar laminectomy. The surgery was successful and the claimant was finally released from the surgeon's care with a weight lifting limitation of fifty pounds occasionally and thirty pounds repetitively. Dr. Weiss estimated his permanent anatomical impairment at ten percent from guidelines of the American Medical Association. The claimant returned to work for Triangle in January of 1993, but in a lighter position, where he could work within his limitations. When he was laid off from that position and no other was found within his limitations, he attempted to rehabilitate himself by returning to college and studying toward an Associate of Science degree. The employer paid half of his expenses. At the time of the trial, he was working as a technician in the Physical Therapy Department at Maury Regional Hospital. He is studying to become a physical therapist. The claimant and his wife own their home and are current on their debts, a home mortgage and a debt secured by their 1993 Jeep Cherokee. They have been married for sixteen years and have a young daughter. The trial judge found, among other things, that the claimant had a permanent partial disability of sixty percent to the body as a whole and awarded benefits accordingly, which he commuted to a lump sum. 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). This tribunal is required to conduct an independent examination of the record to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies.
Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 03/14/96