Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 08/23/2014
Format: 08/23/2014
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
Jeffrey Patterson v. ThyssenKrupp Elevator Company
W2012-01619-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Martha B. Brasfield

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee alleged he suffered a ruptured cervical disk while lifting metal plates at work. His employer denied the claim, contending the neck injury was caused or worsened by a subsequent motor vehicle accident. The employee filed this action in the Chancery Court of Hardeman County, seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court ruled in favor of the employee, awarding temporary and permanent disability benefits plus future medical benefits. The employer has appealed, contending the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding. 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 trial court’s judgment.

Hardeman County Workers Compensation Panel 06/10/13
David Hardy v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. - Concurring/Dissenting Opinion
W2012-00396-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

I concur fully in the majority’s conclusion on the issue of estoppel. On the statute of limitations issue, however, I respectfully dissent.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 05/09/13
David Hardy v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
W2012-00396-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

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. In this hearing-loss case, the employer raises a single issue on appeal: whether the trial court erred in finding that employee’s workers’ compensation claim is not barred by the applicable one-year statute of limitations. We affirm the trial court’s judgment finding that the claim was timely.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 05/09/13
Joe Christopher Watson v. The Parent Company
M2012-01147-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor L. Craig Johnson

In 2007, the employee suffered a work-related back injury, for which he filed a workers’ compensation claim. After conservative treatment failed to provide relief, the employee obtained an unauthorized fusion surgery. The parties settled the workers’ compensation action in 2009. The settlement provided for “future medical benefits relating to the back injury” of 2007, while precluding future benefits for unauthorized care. In 2011, the employee sought authorization for a second surgerybyan authorized surgeon. The employer refused. The trial court ordered the employer to payfor the second surgery, and the employer has appealed. After reviewing the record, we conclude that the employer has appealed an order that is not final and that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear this appeal. Thus, this appeal is dismissed.
 

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 05/08/13
James Reed v. Central Transport North America, Inc.
E2012-00535-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dale Workman

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee suffered a compensable back injury. Surgery did not relieve his symptoms of severe pain. The trial court awarded 84% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer filed a motion to set aside the judgment based on the employee’s alleged failure to supplement his discovery responses. The trial court denied the motion. The employer has appealed, contending that the award is excessive and that the trial court erred by denying its post-trial motion. 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.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 04/29/13
Randall S. Rogers v. Thyssenkrupp Waupaca, Inc., et al.
E2012-00904-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

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 report of findings of fact and conclusion of law. The Employee alleged that he sustained a gradual injury to his back in 2007 as a result of his work as a maintenance technician. His employer denied that a compensable injury had occurred and denied that employee had provided timely notice. The trial court found the Employee had sustained a compensable injury and that timely notice had been given. The trial court also found that the Employee had been terminated for cause and limited the award to one and one-half times the anatomical impairment. The Employer has appealed, asserting that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding on compensability. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Workers Compensation Panel 04/15/13
James Carrigan v. Davenport Towing and Recovery Services, LLC, et al.
W2012-00586-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that he sustained a compensable injury to his lower back while using a sledge hammer. He had injured his back in a similar manner a year earlier, and his employer asserted that the earlier event was the cause of the employee’s symptoms and need for additional medical treatment. The trial court found that the employee had sustained a compensable injury and awarded additional temporary and permanent disability benefits. The employer has appealed, challenging both the temporary and permanent disability benefits awarded. The employee raises two additional issues:  the adequacy of the vocational disability award and the trial court’s decision not to award certain discretionary costs. We reverse the trial court’s decision not to award the employee each of the discretionary costs requested; we affirm judgment of the trial court in all other respects.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 04/11/13