Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 02/27/2015
Format: 02/27/2015
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
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