Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 11/22/2014
Format: 11/22/2014
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
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