Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 08/21/2014
Format: 08/21/2014
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
Bobby Joe Williams, Jr. v. CBT Manufacturing Co., Inc. et al
E2011-01898-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
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 filed suit for benefits, alleging that he aggravated a back injury while performing his job responsibilities. His employer contended that the incident resulted only in an increase in pain from a pre-existing injury and was not, therefore, compensable. At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court found in favor of the employee and, using an eight percent medical impairment rating and a multiplier of one and one-half times the medical impairment rating, awarded permanent partial disability benefits. The employer appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that a compensable injury occurred and, alternatively, that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the employee was entitled to an eight percent medical impairment rating. Because the evidence does not preponderate against the findings of the trial court, the judgment is affirmed.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 09/04/12
Stephen Vowell v. St. Thomas Hospital et al.
M2010-02605-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
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 Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51. An employee, who was rendered permanently and totally disabled following a compensable back injury, suffered severe depression after his employer informed him that his employment had been terminated. He filed suit in the Chancery Court for Davidson County seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Following a bench trial, the trial court concluded that the employee’s depression was compensable and, therefore, that the employee was entitled to receive medical benefits for treatment. The employer asserts on this appeal that the trial court erred by admitting the testimony of the employee’s evaluating psychiatrist and that the award of benefits is inconsistent with Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-102(15) (2008 & Supp. 2011). We affirm the judgment.
 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/23/12
Danny Smith v. Nestle Waters North America, Inc., et al.
M2011-00908-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith

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. After the employee sustained a compensable back injury, he filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in the Chancery Court for Macon County. During the bench trial, the trial court admitted, over the employer’s objection, testimony from a physician selected through the Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”) stating that the employee’s impairment arose from a work-related injury. The trial court thereafter awarded the employee permanent disability benefits based on a 6% impairment. We affirm the judgment.
 

Macon County Workers Compensation Panel 08/23/12
Brian Raines v. Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc. et al.
M2011-01171-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

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 filed this action for reconsideration of a 2006 workers’ compensation settlement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(B)(i)(2008). The settlementwas based on a 2005 injuryconsisting of lumbar disc herniations that resulted in a 12% anatomical impairment rating to the body as a whole. The employee made a meaningful return to work, and his recovery was therefore capped at 1.5 times the impairment rating—18%. The cited statute allows reconsideration when the employee is no longer employed by his pre-injury employer, as occurred in this case when his employer was acquired by another company in 2010. The trial court found the original settlement adequately compensated the employee for his vocational disability and declined to award additional benefits. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/17/12
John J. Campbell Co., Inc., et al. v. Juan M. Beltran
W2011-01388-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kay Spalding Robilio

An employee received workers’ compensation benefits for a traumatic brain injury he suffered while working for his employer. The employee’s claim was settled for 21% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. After experiencing additional difficulties, the employee sought reconsideration of those benefits. The trial court awarded the employee 55% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The employee has appealed, contending that the award was inadequate. After a review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 08/17/12
U.S. Foodservice, Inc. v. John S. Meredith, Jr.
E2011-02060-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, 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. In this workers’ compensation case, the employee experienced chest pain while at home in bed. He testified that he contacted his employer to be excused from work but was told he would lose his employment if he did not come to work. He reported for work and completed a full day of job responsibilities. Two days later, it was determined that he had suffered an acute myocardial infarction. A cardiologist testified that fifty percent of the damage caused by the heart attack was secondary to the delay in medical treatment. The employee sought workers’ compensation benefits, contending that the instruction to report to work substantially worsened his injury. The trial court denied benefits, and the employee has appealed. We affirm the judgment.

Blount County Workers Compensation Panel 08/16/12
Alton B. Kephart, Jr. v. Hughes Hardwood International, Inc. et al.
M2011-01568-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

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 sustained a compensable injury to his lower back in August 2002 which was settled in May 2006. Thereafter the employee continued to be treated by his authorized treating physician. In 2009 the employer requested and the employee consented to an independent medical examination.Thereafter the employer requested another independent medical examination. The employee declined. In April 2011, the employer filed a motion seeking to require the employee to submit to a medical examination pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(d)(1) and Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 35. The trial court denied the motion, and the employer has appealed. We affirm the judgment.

Wayne County Workers Compensation Panel 08/15/12