Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 09/30/2014
Format: 09/30/2014
Aramark, Indemnity Insurance Company of North America and Sue Ann Head, Admin. v. Jeremy Nix
M2012-02608-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carol Soloman

An employee alleged he suffered a compensable injury to his lower back.  His employer disputed a compensable injury occurred.  In the alternative, the employer asserted any award of permanent disability benefits should be limited to one and one-half times the medical impairment because the employee had been terminated for misconduct. The trial court found employee had sustained a compensable injury and did not have a meaningful return  to work.  It awarded 42% permanent  partial disability (“PPD”), six times the medical impairment.  The employer has appealed, asserting the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings. The employer also contends the award was excessive and the trial court erred by denying its motion to stay a portion of the judgment requiring payment of certain medical expenses. The 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 01/14/14
Jeffrey L. Beeler v. DeRoyal Industries, Inc., et al
E2012-02340-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge J.S. Daniel
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dale C. Workman

An employee alleged that he sustained a gradual aggravation of a preexisting lower back condition during the eleven months he worked for his employer. The employer denied the claim, contending that the employee’s condition and symptoms were merely the natural progression of an injury that he had suffered many years earlier. The trial court found for the employer and dismissed the complaint. The employee has appealed that decision, asserting that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s decision. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the 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. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 01/14/14
Timothy Gilliam v. Bridgestone North American Tire, LLC
M2012-02436-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Vanessa A. Jackson

This appeal involves an employee’s eligibility to seek reconsideration of a workers’ compensation settlement. An employee who sustained a compensable shoulder injury returned to work and settled his workers’ compensation claim. He was later laid off after his physician modified the restrictions for an earlier unrelated injury to his foot. Thereafter, the employee filed suit in the Chancery Court for Coffee County seeking reconsideration of the settlement of his shoulder injury. While this suit was pending,the employee returned to work as the result of a confidential settlement between his employer and the EEOC. Following a bench trial, the trial court determined that the employee could seek reconsideration of the settlement for his injured shoulder and awarded the employee additional disability benefits. The employer appealed and asserted that the employee was not entitled to seek reconsideration because, despite the layoff, he had never been “subsequently no longer employed by the pre-injury employer” as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6241(d)(1)(B)(ii)(2008). The 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 in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 12/16/13
Michael Johnson v. Zeledyne, LLC et al.
M2013-00147-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clara Byrd

This appeal takes issue with an award of permanent partial disability benefits in a workers’ compensation case. After sustaining a compensable knee injury, the employee filed suit seeking workers’ compensation benefits in the Circuit Court for Wilson County. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded the employee the maximum disability award permitted by the circumstances. On this appeal, the employer takes issue with the trial court’s exclusion of the testimony of an evaluating physician on the ground that he had not personally examined the employee and with the amount of the disability award. The 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We find that the trial court erred by excluding the physician’s testimony but that this error was harmless. We also find that the evidence supports the trial court’s disability award. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.

Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 12/11/13
George Wayne Edwards v. Velma Childs, et al
E2012-02592-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

An employee worked as a skidder operator for the employer’s logging company. The employee’s face and eyelid were lacerated when the chainsaw that he was operating “kicked back.” The employee briefly returned to work within a few weeks after his accident, but he was unable to continue working due to eye pain. The employee subsequently underwent eight surgeries on his face and eye. Although the employer admitted that the employee’s injury was compensable, it argued that his award should be capped at one and one-half times his impairment rating and that the medical testimony concerning his impairment was not credible. The trial court found that the employee was permanently and totally disabled. The employer appealed, arguing that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings. The employee, however, contends that the employer’s appeal is frivolous and seeks liquidated damages pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-225(h). We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 12/10/13
Lorraine English v. Compass Group USA, Inc. d/b/a Canteen Vending Services
E2012-02732-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Larry H. Puckett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor R. Jerry Beck

An employee was injured when she fell from a stack of soft drinks while attempting to climb a wall to rescue and remove a feral cat from her employer’s premises. Her employer denied the claim, contending that she was on a private mission at the time of her injury and also that she had violated a safety rule by failing to use a ladder. The employee filed this action seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The trial was bifurcated. After the initial hearing, the trial court found that the employee’s action was related in part to her employment and, therefore, compensable. After a subsequent hearing, the court awarded benefits. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings on compensability and, in the alternative, that the claim is barred by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-110(a) (2008). The 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 12/09/13
Linda Carten ex rel. Daniel John Carten v. MBI and/or Mr. Bult's, Inc., et al.
W2012-01507-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

An employee died from “traumatic asphyxiation” after a front-end loader accidentally pushed him into a trailer loaded with garbage. The employee’s widow sought workers’ compensation death benefits. The employer denied that the employee was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and raised the affirmative defenses of willful misconduct and willful failure to use a safety device. Following a trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the employer, and the employee’s widow appealed.  We affirm.

Benton County Workers Compensation Panel 11/14/13
Latarius Houston v. MTD Consumer Group, Inc.
W2012-01975-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge George R. Ellis

The parties stipulated that the employee suffered work-related injuries to both arms and that she was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits based on a 40 percent disability to each arm. The trial court found that the employee’s average weekly wage was $463.92 and that her compensation rate was $309.28 per week. The employer has appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in calculating the employee’s average weekly wage. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for computation of the average weekly wage and for entry of a revised judgment.

Haywood County Workers Compensation Panel 10/25/13
Michael Anthony Brim v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company et al.
M2012-01565-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tom E. Gray

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee alleged that he injured his right shoulder and left hip when he fell while entering a vehicle. His employer accepted the shoulder injury as compensable, but denied the hip claim. The employee had surgery on both the shoulder and hip and eventually returned to his pre-injury job. The trial court found that the hip injury was compensable and awarded permanent disability benefits for both injuries. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding regarding the hip injury. The 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/13
Jessie Upchurch v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
W2012-01869-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

The trial court awarded an employee 85% permanent partial disability to both ears. The employer has appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in finding the employee’s claim was not barred by the one-year statute of limitations in Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-203(b). We affirm the trial court’s determination that the employee’s claim was timely filed.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 10/18/13
Tony Wayne Wilson v. Bill Jennings et al.
E2012-01966-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

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. This is the second appeal of this case. We previously affirmed the trial court’s award of temporary total disability benefits and past medical expenses, but reversed its decision not to award permanent disability benefits and future medical expenses. Wilson v. Jennings, No. E2010-02028-WC-R3-WC, 2012 WL 727853 (Tenn. Workers’ Comp. Panel Mar. 6, 2012). On remand, the trial court heard additional medical, vocational and other proof as to the employee’s anatomical impairment and vocational disability. Based on that evidence, it awarded 200 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits and future medical expenses. The employer has again appealed, contending that the trial court erred by denying its motion for sanctions, by denying its motion in limine to exclude certain medical testimony, by relying on the proof of the employee’s vocational expert and by awarding discretionary costs. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 09/19/13
Danny Ray Grooms v. City of Trenton, Tennessee, et al.
W2012-01872-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

The employee, a sanitation worker, was struck in the groin area when he fell onto a bed frame. Within a few days, he developed swelling and infection of same. His treating physician testified that the condition was not caused by the work injury, and an evaluating physician testified that the employee’s condition was consistent with the injury. The trial court found that the swelling and infection were not related to the work injury and dismissed employee’s complaint. The employee appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/12/13
Lisa G. Dixon v. Nissan North America, Inc. et al.
M2012-02495-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

The issues in this case are (1) whether the evidence supports an award of 8% to the body as a whole for an injury covered by the Workers’ Compensation statutes of this state, and (2) whether the trial judge erred in multiplying that award by a factor of six in the final judgment. The 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We conclude that the medical proof supports the trial court’s finding of an 8% anatomical impairment and that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that the employee is entitled to receive permanent partial disability benefits of six times the anatomical impairment rating. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment awarding the employee permanent partial disability benefits of 48% to the body as a whole.

Franklin County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/13