Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 09/16/2014
Format: 09/16/2014
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
Bellsouth Telecommunications, Inc. v. Alonzo W. Howard
M2012-00788-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

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 reported to his employer that he had sustained bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of his work activities. The employer provided the employee with medical treatment. After the parties reached an impasse at the benefit review conference, the employer filed a petition seeking a determination of whether the employee was entitled to additional workers’ compensation benefits. The employee’s pre-trial motion to compel discovery was denied by the trial court. At trial, both sides presented expert medical evidence to support their positions as to the cause and nature of the employee’s condition. The trial court denied the employee’s claim, accrediting the testimony of the employer’s expert witness that the employee did not suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and that his symptoms did not arise out of or occur in the course and scope of his employment. On appeal, the employee contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to compel discovery and in accrediting the testimony of the employer’s expert witness. After careful review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/11/13
Jackie Perry v. Lennox Hearth Products
W2011-02389-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge William Michael Maloan

An employee alleged that he suffered a work-related hearing loss. After finding that the employee established a compensable injury, the trial court awarded 40% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the employee suffered a compensable injury. Alternatively, the employer contends that the award was excessive. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 04/11/13
Carl Bohannan v. Expedited Transport Associates, Inc. et al.
M2012-00694-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy V.Hollars

In this workers’ compensation appeal, the employee, a truck driver, alleged that he injured his right shoulder and low back when his tractor-trailer overturned. His employer stipulated that the shoulder injury was compensable, but denied that he had sustained a permanent back injury. Instead, the employer contended that the employee’s back symptoms were the result of a previous back injury, which had been the subject of a previous workers’ compensation claim and settlement. The trial court determined that the employee had suffered a new, compensable back injury and was permanently and totally disabled. The trial court apportioned 80% of the liability for the award to the employer and 20% to the Second Injury Fund. Employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by finding that a new, compensable back injury occurred. In the alternative, it argues that the trial court incorrectly apportioned the 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 in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 

Putnam County Workers Compensation Panel 04/10/13
Stanley Franklin v. Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc. et al.
M2012-00864-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith

After the employee sustained a compensable injury to his low back which required surgery, he returned to work. The company for which he worked was sold to another entity after the date of injury but before the employee’s return to work. At trial, both parties agreed that the one and one-half times multiplier cap did not apply because the sale of the company was a “loss of employment” for the purposes of Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6241(d). At trial, the employee was awarded 78% permanent partial disability, the maximum permitted under law, based on an anatomical rating of 13%. The employer has appealed and is contending that the award is excessive. 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.
 

Smith County Workers Compensation Panel 04/10/13
Pamela Ingram v. Heads Up Hair Cutting Center
M2012-00464-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman

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 accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. The employee alleged she sustained a gradual injury to her cervical spine as a result of her job. Her employer denied her condition was work-related and contended that her claim was barred by her failure to provide timely notice of her claim and the operation of the statute of limitations. The employer also argued subsequent employers were liable per the last injurious injury rule. The trial court found for the employee and awarded benefits. On the employer’s motion to alter or amend, the trial court held that the employee’s award was capped at one and one-half times the anatomical impairment rate pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1). The employer appeals, contending the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings concerning compensability and the statute of limitations. The employee asserts the trial court erred by capping her disability award. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/10/13
Eric Grier v. Alstom Power, Inc.
E2012-01394-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

This appeal arises from a dispute over post-settlement medical care. The employee alleged that he developed asthma as a result of exposure to welding fumes in the workplace. The employee and employer settled the workers’ compensation claim. The trial court’s order approving the parties’ settlement provided that the employer would pay employee permanent partial disability benefits and provide future medical care “for the work related injury described” in the order. The trial court also designated Dr. Robert Younger III as the treating physician. Following the settlement, a dispute arose between the parties regarding payment for Dr. Younger’s treatment. The employer refused to pay for continuing treatment for the employee’s asthma because he was no longer exposed to welding fumes. The employee sought to require the employer to pay for the medical treatment Dr. Younger provided. After reviewing the medical proof submitted by the parties, the trial court ordered the employer to pay for Dr. Younger’s recommended treatment. The employer has appealed. 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.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 04/10/13
Russell E. Downing, II v. Day & Zimmerman, NPS, Inc., et al.
W2011-02455-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

An employee suffered multiple injuries in a work-related accident in November 2006 when a fan located in a boiler in which he was working suddenly deployed, causing him to lose his footing and fall. After providing medical treatment, the employer denied the employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and the employee sought additional medical treatment. The trial court found the claim to be compensable and awarded the employee permanent total disability benefits. The trial court imposed no liability on the Second Injury Fund. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Henry County Workers Compensation Panel 03/26/13
Anthony W. Welcher v. Central Mutual Insurance Company
M2012-00248-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge C. Creed McGinley
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

This workers’ compensation appeal arises from a petition for post-judgment medical care. The trial court initially found that the employee had sustained a compensable injury to his neck and awarded benefits, including future medical care. Shortly after the entry of a final judgment, which designated a treating physician, a dispute arose over employee’s medical treatment and a proposed surgical procedure. The employee petitioned the trial court to directhis employer to payfor his medical treatment. The employer requested an independent medical evaluation. The surgery took place while the petition was pending. Several days later, the employee suffered a brain hemorrhage. The trial court ruled that the surgical procedure was reasonably related to the work injury, but the hemorrhage was not; thus, it directed the employer to pay for the former but not the latter. After additional proceedings, the trial court awarded attorneys’ fees to the employee, but not the full amount requested. The employer has appealed, contending that the fee award is excessive. The employee contends that the trial court erred byfinding that treatment of the hemorrhage was not related to his work injury and by not awarding the attorneys’ fees requested. 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 declining to order the employer to provide treatment for the hemorrhage. Because the record is insufficient to allow for review, we vacate the trial court’s award of attorneys’ fees and remand for further proceedings consistent with this decision.
 

Franklin County Workers Compensation Panel 03/21/13
David D. Lawrence v. Midwestern Insurance Alliance
E2012-00632-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge J.S."Steve" Daniel
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John F. Weaver

The employee alleged that his pre-existing heart failure was permanently worsened by an accidental inhalation of cement dust on the job. The workers’ compensation insurer for the employer asserted that the worsening of the heart failure was a natural progression of the condition and that the inhalation event had no permanent effect on the employee. Cardiologists testified in support of each side’s theory. The trial court found for the employee and awarded permanent total disability benefits. The insurer has appealed that decision. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 03/19/13
Tina Shannon v. Roane Medical Center
E2011-02649-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams, III

The employee, a surgical technician, worked full-time for the employer at a hospital. In addition to her regular hours, the employee worked on-call shifts on a rotating basis subject to specific rules and restrictions. During an on-call shift, the employee was required to return to the hospital during the early morning hours for emergency surgery. After leaving the hospital to drive home but while still subject to call, the employee was seriously injured in an automobile accident. The employee filed suit for workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court denied recovery, and the employee appealed. In accordance with 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. Because the evidence establishes that the employee falls within an exception to the “coming and going rule,” the judgment of the trial court is reversed and the case is remanded for an award of benefits.

Roane County Workers Compensation Panel 03/13/13
Billy Ward v. Dell Products, L.P. et al.
M2011-01714-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge C. Creed McGinley
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor C. K. Smith

In this worker’s compensation case, the employee alleged that his job caused a compensable aggravation of arthritis in his knees. The trial court found that his employment had caused only an increase of symptoms, and, therefore, he did not sustain a compensable injury. The employee has appealed. 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. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 03/08/13
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