Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 07/28/2014
Format: 07/28/2014
Stephen D. Good v. Sunkote Plastic Coatings Corporation et al.
M2012-00700-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley

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 sought workers’ compensation benefits, alleging that he injured his back at work on September 30, 2008, and is now totally and permanently disabled. The employer denied that the employee sustained a compensable work-related injury, but alternativelyargued that the employee is not totallyand permanently disabled. The trial court concluded that the employee sustained a compensable work-related injury and awarded 80% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer has appealed, arguing that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the injury was compensable and that, even if the employee proved a compensable injury, the evidence preponderates against the award of 80% permanent partial disabilitybenefits. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Van Buren County Workers Compensation Panel 12/19/12
Scott D. Strain v. Mr. Bult's, Inc., et al.
W2012-00232-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

An employee alleged that he sustained an injury to his back. His employer denied the claim.  The trial court found the injury to be compensable and awarded the employee 30% permanent partial disability benefits. The employer has appealed contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the injury is compensable. On appeal, the employee asserts that the award of benefits was inadequate. After review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 11/29/12
Ron W. Robinson v. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC
M2011-02238-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III

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 pursuant to Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51. The employee injured his neck in the course of his employment in 2005. He returned to work for his pre-injury employer and settled his claim subject to the one and one-half times impairment cap. In 2009, the employer entered into a new collective bargaining agreement in which the hourly wages of all production workers were reduced. Thereafter, the employee sought reconsideration on his earlier settlement pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-241(d)(1)(B) (2008). The trial court held that the across-the-board wage reduction did not trigger the right to reconsideration and denied the employee’s claim. We affirm the judgment.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 11/21/12
John Freeman v. General Motors Company et al.
M2011-02284-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.

The employee sought reconsideration of workers’ compensation settlements concerning a back injury in 2003 and a right knee injury in 2006. The trial court granted the petition and increased the previous permanent partial disability awards to 30% to the body as a whole for the back injury and 100% to the leg for the knee injury. The employer has appealed, contending that reconsideration of the back injury was barred by the statute of limitations, that the awards for both injuries were excessive, that the trial court incorrectly awarded benefits in excess of six times the anatomical impairment for the knee injury, and that the trial court erred by awarding benefits in a lump sum. The employee contends that the trial court erred by failing to award permanent total disability benefits. We conclude that the employee’s petition for reconsideration of the settlement of his back injury was not timely filed and reverse that part of the judgment. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 10/22/12
Amy McGhee v. Tots and Teens Pediatrics, et al.
E2011-02210-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Billy Joe White

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 alleged that she was injured in the course and scope of her employment with Employer in December 2005. Employee retained the law firm of PryorParrott PC in December 2005 to represent her. They filed a claim with the Department of Labor, but benefits were denied. An action was then filed on Employee’s behalf in the Chancery Court of Campbell County in January 2007. In March 2009, the Chancery Court granted PryorParrott’s motion for leave to withdraw and granted it a lien for expenses in the amount of $1,146.38 and a lien for attorney’s fees in the amount of 10% of any benefits recovered by Employee. Employee then retained attorney David H. Dunaway to represent her. Dunaway ultimately settled Employee’s workers’ compensation claim for a lump sum payment of $100,000. In December 2010, the case was set for settlement approval in Chancery Court. Dunaway, on Employee’s behalf, voluntarily dismissed her Chancery Court case and immediately filed a joint petition for approval of the settlement in the Circuit Court of Campbell County. The Circuit Court approved the settlement, awarded total attorney’s fees in the amount of 20% of Employee’s recovery, and ordered Dunaway to hold in trust the fees pending resolution of PryorParrott’s lien claim. PryorParrott later moved the Chancery Court to set aside the voluntary dismissal, and that court granted the motion. At a later hearing in September 2011, PryorParrott and Dunaway submitted to the jurisdiction of the Chancery Court to determine disputes related to PryorParrott’s lien and the division of fees. The Chancery Court determined that PryorParrott was entitled to a fee of 10% of the settlement, or $10,000, and expenses of $1,146.38, and ordered Dunaway to

Campbell County Workers Compensation Panel 10/17/12
Phillip Keele v. Batesville Casket Company, Inc. et al.
M2012-00034-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

In this workers’ compensation case, the trial court awarded the employee, a truck driver who fell while attempting to get in his truck, 60% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole for injuries to his left knee and both shoulders. The employer has appealed, asserting that the award is excessive. The employer also maintains the employee failed to prove that the injury to his right shoulder was work-related. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 10/12/12
Pamela A. Jones v. Vanderbilt University
M2011-02250-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry G. Ross

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee, Pamela A. Jones, suffered a work-related injury in 2004 and reached a settlement agreement with her employer, Vanderbilt University (Vanderbilt). She filed this action arguing that Vanderbilt was required to pay for bilateral knee replacement pursuant to the settlement agreement. Vanderbilt alleged that the need for the requested medical treatment was not caused by the work injury. After a hearing, the trial court ordered Vanderbilt to pay for Ms. Jones’s bilateral knee replacement. Vanderbilt has appealed. We affirm the judgment.

Warren County Workers Compensation Panel 10/12/12
Carolyn Collier v. Life Care Centers of Collegedale, et al.
E2011-01683-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Jerri S. Bryant
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. Employee injured her ankle in the course and scope of her employment. She received treatment from an authorized physician for a period of time, but did not improve and did not return to work. After the initial injury and treatment of her ankle, she began receiving treatment for problems with her right knee. Employer denied that Employee had sustained a permanent injury to her ankle and also denied that Employee had suffered a compensable injury to her knee. The trial court found that Employee sustained compensable injuries to both the knee and ankle and awarded permanent partial and temporary total disability benefits. We find that the combined benefits exceeded that statutory maximum then in effect and modify the award accordingly. Otherwise, we affirm the remainder of the judgment.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 10/08/12
Gail Fly v. Travelers Insurance et al.
W2011-01215-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Tony Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge George R. Ellis

The employee alleged that she was permanently and totally disabled due to a lower back injury suffered while operating a foot pedal on a drill press in April 2004. The employee had previously alleged an injury to her lower back, which was settled on a “doubtful and disputed” basis. Although the employee’s treating physician testified that the April 2004 incident was a temporary flare-up of her earlier injury, he did assign new permanent restrictions. The trial court found that the employee had sustained a new injury and awarded permanent total disability benefits. The Second Injury Fund and the employer have appealed. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/20/12
Eric Miller v. R. J. Wherry & Associates et al.
M2011-00723-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda McClendon

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 Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51. After the employee sustained a compensable injury to his lower back, the parties reached a settlement of the claim at a benefit review conference.  As part of the agreement, the employer agreed to provide a job for the employee within the medical restrictions arising from the injury. The employer eventually decided not to rehire the employee after he failed to return to work. Thereafter, the employee filed a petition in the Circuit Court for Davidson County seeking reconsideration of his settlement. The trial court granted the petition and increased the disability award. On this appeal, the employer takes issue with (1) the trial court’s adoption verbatim of the employee’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, (2) the trial court’s conclusion that the employee was entitled to reconsideration, (3) the exclusion of evidence related to the employee’s prior back problems, and (4) the claimed excessiveness of the award. We affirm the judgment.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/19/12
David Smith v. Gerdau Ameristeel, Inc.
W2011-01399-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

In this claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the employee suffered a compensable back injury. The trial court awarded 85% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole and additional temporary total disability benefits, resulting in an award of 400 weeks of benefits. The employer has appealed, asserting that the permanent partial disability award is excessive and that the trial court erred by awarding  additional temporary total disability benefits. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/12
Lance Erickson v. SDI of Oak Ridge Turnpike, LLC
E2011-02427-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

In accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The employee, who sustained injuries while attempting to repair a piece of food service equipment, filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Later, the employer terminated the employee, alleging misconduct in the performance of his duties. The trial court ruled that because the employer had discharged the employee in retaliation for the claim, the employee did not have a meaningful return to work and, furthermore, was entitled to the statutory maximum of six times the medical impairment. The employer appealed. Because the evidence supports the ruling of the trial court, the judgment is affirmed.

Anderson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/04/12
Tina Kelley v. D & S Residential Holdings, LP
E2011-02392-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell E. Simmons, 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, a human resources director, slipped and fell while performing her job responsibilities. The employee did not return to work following the incident and was subsequently terminated. Although the employee received temporary total disability benefits, she filed suit alleging that she was entitled to additional temporary total and permanent partial disability benefits. While concluding that the employee had sustained a 19% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole, the trial court capped the award at one and one-half times the medical impairment rating because the employee was not denied a meaningful return to work. The employee has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that she had a meaningful return to work. She also contends that she is entitled to temporary partial disability benefits. In response, the employer asserts that the 19% impairment rating is excessive. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the findings of the trial judge, the judgment is affirmed.

Loudon County Workers Compensation Panel 09/04/12