Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014
Timothy L. Wilson v. Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division
W2012-00889-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald E. Parish
Trial Court Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin

The employee alleged that he sustained an on-the-job injury in June 2004. The settlement of that claim was approved in December 2004. The employee alleges in this case that he suffered additional compensable injuries in June 2005 and July 2006. The employer contends that the new allegations pertain not to new injuries but rather a continuation of symptoms from the 2004 injury. The employee also filed a third-party tort action arising from the 2004 injury. The employer intervened in the tort case to protect its medical subrogation lien. The parties settled all claims at a joint mediation that resulted in the tort defendant paying a sum of money, the employee dismissing with prejudice this workers’ compensation case, and the employer reducing its medical subrogation lien. Accordingly, the workers’ compensation case was dismissed with prejudice. More than a year later, the employee moved to vacate the dismissal, contending that he had not authorized it, and the employer moved to strike that motion. While these motions were pending, the employee sought to depose the mediator, the third party’s attorney, and the employer’s attorney. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court found that the employee had agreed to the dismissal, and it granted the employer’s motion to strike. The trial court also quashed the deposition subpoenas issued at the employee’s request. The employee has appealed from these orders, and 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.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 03/07/13
Linda Lou McDougal v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
W2011-02302-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that she injured her neck in a forklift accident. Her employer did not deny that the event occurred but contended that her symptoms were caused by preexisting degenerative changes. The employee eventually had surgery and sought workers’ compensation benefits. In addition to causation, the employer asserted that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court found that the employee had sustained a compensable injury and made a finding concerning the extent of her permanent disability. However, it held the record open to permit the taking of additional proof concerning the statute of limitations. After considering that evidence, the court found that the claim was timely and awarded benefits pursuant to its original ruling. The employer has appealed, challenging the trial court’s rulings on the statute of limitations and causation. 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 judgment of the trial court.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 03/07/13
Lawrence Owsley v. Con-Way Truckload, Inc., et al.
E2011-02631-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, 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. In this appeal, the employee alleged that he injured his back as a result of a fall from his tractor trailer during the course and scope of his employment. The employer contended that the employee’s workers’ compensation claim was barred by the affirmative defense of misrepresentation of his physical condition, that a compensable injury had not been sustained and that his permanent partial disability award was excessive. The trial court found that the employee did not intentionally misrepresent his physical condition, that the employee had sustained a compensable injury and that the award should be 70% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against each of the trial court’s findings. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Workers Compensation Panel 03/07/13
Billy Hill v. Hutcherson Metals, Inc., et al.
W2011-01834-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress

A crane struck a large metal container, pushing a door on the container into an employee and causing an injury to the employee’s back. The employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court entered a judgment finding that the employee’s inability to work and depression were caused by a preexisting condition that was unrelated to his work-related injury and that the employee sustained a 21% permanent partial disability for the injuries to his lumbar spine. The employee has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by finding that his pre-existing condition was not aggravated by his work injury. The employer contends that the trial court erred by finding that the employee is permanently disabled as a result of his injury.

Dyer County Workers Compensation Panel 03/05/13
Stephen Taylor v. Airgas Mid-South, Inc., et al.
W2012-00621-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

In this workers’ compensation appeal, it is undisputed that the employee sustained a compensable injury, that the employer was providing medical care as required by the workers’ compensation statute, and that the employee sought and received a spinal fusion treatment without informing or consulting with his employer. The trial court ordered the employer to pay for the unauthorized treatment, and the employer has appealed from that decision. 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 reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 02/26/13
Joseph E. Smith v. Electric Research & Manufacturing Cooperative, Inc., and Ace American Insurance Co.
W2012-00656-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge William Michael Maloan

Joseph E. Smith (“Employee”) alleged that he injured his back in the course and scope of his employment with Electric Research & Manufacturing Cooperative, Inc. (“Employer”). Employee’s evaluation physician assigned a 12% permanent impairment rating to the body as a whole as a result of the injury. A physician selected through the Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”) process assigned a 3% permanent impairment rating to the body as a whole. The trial court found that Employee rebutted the statutory presumption of accuracy afforded the MIR physician’s rating by clear and convincing evidence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(d)(5) (2008) and awarded 40% permanent partial disability to the body. Employer has appealed. After reviewing the record as we are required to do, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 02/22/13
Jerome Douglas v. Ledic Realty Service et al.
W2012-00345-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

An employee alleged that he sustained a compensable injury to his lower back. His employer denied his workers’ compensation claim. At trial, the employee failed to present expert medical testimony. At the conclusion of the employee’s case, the trial court granted the employer’s motion for involuntary dismissal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 41.02(2) because the employee did not present any expert medical testimony. The employee has appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 02/13/13
Lora Vawter v. Volunteer Management Development
W2012-00471-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee alleged that her work as a bookkeeper caused a compensable aggravation of her pre-existing rheumatoid arthritis. Her employer denied her claim. The trial court awarded benefits to the employee, and her employer has appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 02/13/13
Joseph Sims v. Millennium Packaging Solutions, LLC
E2011-02448-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton

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. The employee fell and struck his head in March of 2000 in the course and scope of his employment, resulting in a complex scalp laceration, post-concussion syndrome and dysfunction of the trigeminal nerve. He filed this workers’ compensation action in February of 2001, seeking temporary total disability and permanent disability benefits and medical expenses. After many delays the case was heard in September of 2011. The employee’s medical expert testified that he had a 21% permanent impairment and was temporarily disabled until 2009. The employer’s expert testified that he had a 5% impairment, had reached maximum medical improvement and was able to work at the time of his examination in 2007. The trial court awarded temporary total disability benefits from 2000 to 2007, a total of 369.98 weeks, and awarded 60% permanent partial disability, a total of 240 weeks, for a grand total of 609.98 weeks. The employer has appealed, contending that the court erred in awarding more than a total of 400 weeks, in awarding temporary total disability benefits without proper medical proof of inability to work and in awarding 60% permanent partial disability without defining the specific anatomical impairment rating. We reverse the judgment in part and affirm in part.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 02/04/13
Sheila Paschall ex rel Murray Paschall et al. v. SGS North America, Inc. et al.
M2012-00399-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jim T. Hamilton

In this worker’s compensation action, the widow of the decedent sought workers’ compensation benefits for her husband’s death. She filed suit twice but voluntarily non-suited each of those actions. She filed suit a third time, and her husband’s employer moved to dismiss, contending that the third action was barred by the statute of limitations and by Tenn. R. Civ. Pro. 41.01(2). The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, and the widow has appealed, contending that her third action was timely filed. We reverse the decision of the trial court.
 

Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 01/30/13
David Amado v. Bridgestone Firestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC et al.
M2012-00094-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor L. Craig Johnson

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that he sustained compensable injuries to both shoulders. His employer conceded the compensability of the right shoulder injury, but denied the left shoulder claim. An examination was done by a physician through the Medical Impairment Registry(“MIR”) regarding the right shoulder claim. The trial court found that the presumption of correctness of the MIR impairment opinion had been overcome by clear and convincing evidence as to the right shoulder injury. The trial court also concluded that the left shoulder injury was compensable and awarded benefits accordingly. The trial court also denied employer’s claim that it was entitled to an offset pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-114(b) for benefits paid under its accident and sickness policy. We hold and find that the trial court erred by failing to apply the offset sought by the employer, and affirm the judgment in all other respects.
 

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 01/30/13
Michael Draine v. S & ME, Inc, et al
E2012-00384-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge J.S. "Steve" Daniel
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

In this workers’ compensation case, a Hawkins County employee sustained a compensable injury in September 2000. His claim was settled in July 2003. The settlement, which was approved by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, provided that the employer would continue to provide medical care for the injury in accordance with the workers’ compensation law. In 2009, the employee and his employer’s insurer entered into an agreement closing future medical benefits in exchange for a lump sum payment, subject to approval by Medicare. This settlement closing future medical benefits was approved by the Circuit Court for Knox County by agreement of the parties. Medicare declined to approve the proposed agreement and suggested an alternate, much larger, lump sum payment. The employee filed a petition in the Circuit Court for Sullivan County to enforce the settlement agreement as amended by Medicare. The employer and insurer moved to dismiss, based on improper venue. That motion was denied. After a series of non-evidentiary hearings, the trial court ordered the employer’s insurer to make a lump sum payment in excess of $500,000. The employer and insurer have appealed, contending that the trial court erred by denying their motion to dismiss, and by ordering the $500,000 payment. 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 conclude that the trial court erred by denying the motion to dismiss, and therefore reverse.

Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 01/22/13
Eric Sutton v. McKinney Drilling Company, et al.
W2012-00503-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald Parish
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Kenny Armstrong

An employee was pinned between a large crane and a pickup truck. He suffered injuries to his ribs, shoulder, and back. He also suffered a collapsed lung and contusions on his lungs. He recovered from those injuries and was able to return to work for his employer. The trial court found the correct impairment to be 19% to the body as a whole and awarded 28.5% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer contends that the trial court erred by awarding benefits for pulmonary dysfunction. The employee contends that the award was based on an incorrect impairment rating. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 01/18/13