Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 07/24/2014
Format: 07/24/2014
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
Larry Keith Bragg v. Beach Oil Company, Inc., et al.
M2012-02256-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge George Sexton

An employee sustained an injury to his back in the course of his employment on January 1, 2010. After a period of conservative treatment, the employee’s treating physician recommended surgery. The employer’s utilization review provider declined to approve the surgery, and the Medical Director of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development affirmed the denial. The employee did not return to work for the employer. On September 1, 2010, the employee went to the emergency room complaining of severe back pain. An MRI revealed a herniated disc in the area of the employee’s spine for which his treating physician had previously recommended surgery. The following day, the employee’s treating physician performed the previously recommended surgery and opined that the herniated disc and surgery were causally related to the employee’s January 1, 2010 work injury. The employer denied that the work injury caused the herniated disc and surgery. The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim in the Chancery Court for Humphreys County. The primary disputed issues at trial were causation and the extent of the employee’s disability. The trial court ruled that the herniated disc was causally connected to the work injury and awarded permanent partial disability benefits of 36% to the body as a whole, as well as medical expenses. The employer appealed. This 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 trial court’s finding that Employee’s September 1, 2010 herniated disc, and the fusion surgery performed as a result of it, were causally related to his January 1, 2010 work injury. We also affirm the trial court’s finding that Employee is not totally and permanently disabled. Because the trial court failed to make the findings required by statute when awarding permanent partial disability benefits of six times the medical impairment rating, we vacate the award of disability benefits and remand to the trial court for additional consideration and appropriate findings on this issue.

Humphreys County Workers Compensation Panel 08/21/13
United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Cindy Hannah
M2012-00884-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee sought permanent partial disability benefits for an injury to her hip and lower back. Her employer agreed that her hip injury was compensable, but denied that she had suffered a permanent disability. It also denied that her alleged back injury was compensable. The trial court found for the employee, and awarded permanent disability benefits for both injuries. Her employer has appealed, arguing that the medical evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings. 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.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 08/14/13
Armethia D. Lively ex rel. Robert E. Lively v. Union Carbide Corporation
E2012-02136-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

Upon the death of her husband from asbestos-related pulmonary disease, the plaintiff filed suit for workers' compensation benefits. Because her husband had previously settled a disability claim for 400 weeks of benefits, the employer denied the claim. The trial court awarded the funeral expenses of the husband but declined to grant benefits to the plaintiff as his dependent over and above the amount of the settlement. Her 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 Rufe 51. Although the plaintiff may make a separate claim for benefits, she is not entitled to any recovery beyond funeral expenses because the amount of her entitlement, as controlled by the date of her husband's injury, would not be in excess of the amount of his settlement. The judgment is, therefore, affirmed.

Anderson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/13/13
Garry Hall v. Nesco, Inc. et al.
M2012-02368-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

An employee was hospitalized with severe respiratory problems after spending about four days over the course of two weeks power-washing the roof of a commercial building his employer owned. The employee’s treating physician ordered numerous tests, none of which revealed definitively the cause of his condition. Based on the employee’s response to steroid medication and the fact that medical testing revealed no infection or other condition, the treating physician opined that the employee had developed interstitial lung disease from his exposure to a combination of toxic substances while washing the roof. In contrast, the employer’s consulting physician opined that the employee was not exposed to toxic substances in sufficient concentrations while washing the roof to cause interstitial lung disease and that the employee’s condition had been caused by infectious pneumonia, which was not detected by testing during the employee’s hospitalization because the testing was conducted too soon after the infection developed. The employer denied the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, and the employee filed suit in the Chancery Court for Putnam County. The trial court found for the employee and awarded 92.5% permanent partial disability. The employer has appealed, arguing that the proof preponderates against the trial court’s finding of causation and award of 92.5%. The appeal has been referred to this 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 trial court’s judgment.

Putnam County Workers Compensation Panel 08/07/13
Dan A. Conatser v. Fentress Farmers Cooperative and Sentry Insurance a Mutual Company
M2012-01798-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Billy Joe White

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee sustained multiple injuries in a work-related incident in April 2005, when approximately 1,500 pounds of stockade gates fell on him. The employee later returned to work for the employer in his previous position as a truck driver. The parties settled the employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits based upon a 34.5% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole, plus future medical benefits. The employee continued having bilateral shoulder pain as a result of his injuries and in August 2008 had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn rotator cuff. After the surgery, however, he developed an infection and required a second surgery, which revealed the failure of the rotator cuff repair. Because of the poor result of those surgeries, the employee declined the recommended surgery on his right shoulder. In February 2011, the employee filed a complaint seeking reconsideration of his previous award, alleging that he had ceased working for the employer in January 2010 because he could no longer physically perform his duties due to his earlier compensable injuries. The trial court found that the employee was entitled to reconsideration and awarded additional permanent partial disability benefits (with credit for the benefits previously paid). The employer has appealed. 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. We affirm the trial court’s finding that the employee is entitled to reconsideration but reverse its finding as to permanent partial disability.

Fentress County Workers Compensation Panel 07/26/13
Betty Norton v. Whirlpool Corp.
M2012-00966-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that she sustained permanent disability from a work-related injury to her right shoulder. Her employer denied that the injury caused a permanent disability. The trial court found that the employee was permanently and totally disabled as a result of her work injury and entered a judgment to that effect. The employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by finding permanent and total disability. 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.

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 07/26/13
Paul E. Arnett v. McMinn County Government, et al.
E2012-01356-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

The employee, a truck driver for McMinn County, suffered injuries in a job-related accident. Later, he filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits claiming that he had been permanently and totally disabled as a result of his injuries. The employer acknowledged that the employee’s shoulder and leg injuries were compensable but argued that his spinal injuries were not work related. Because a physician who performed two spinal surgeries on the employee was not listed on the employer’s panel of medical providers, the employer denied responsibility for the associated medical costs. While ordering that all of the employee’s injuries were compensable and granting permanent total disability benefits, the trial court did not require the employer to pay the medical costs incident to the second surgery. In this appeal, the employer maintains that the trial court erred by holding that the employee was entitled to recover either benefits or the cost of medical treatment for his spinal injuries. In response, the employee argues that the trial court erred by failing to award payment of the medical costs incident to the second surgery. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of facts and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. The judgment is affirmed, but modified to require the employer to pay the medical costs incident to the second surgery. The cause is remanded for an assessment of the medical expenses related to the second surgery.

McMinn County Workers Compensation Panel 07/09/13