Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 07/24/2014
Format: 07/24/2014
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
Larry A. Renfro v. Starnet Insurance Company
E2011-00839-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Larry H. Puckett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Frank V. Williams

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee, a truck driver, sustained a compensable back injury. After having surgery, he returned to his pre-injury job for a year and was able to drive with the aid of narcotic medications prescribed to treat his back pain. He subsequently left his employment after results of an annual U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) medical examination determined that his use of the narcotics prohibited him from driving. The trial court found that the employee did not have a meaningful return to work and awarded benefits in excess of one and one-half times the anatomical impairment rating. The employer’s workers compensation insurance carrier has appealed, asserting that the employee’s loss of employment was unrelated to his work injury and that the award should have been limited to one and one-half times the impairment. We affirm the judgment.

Roane County Workers Compensation Panel 08/15/12
Dana Automotive Systems Group, LLC, et al. v. Larry Evans
W2010-00656-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Janice Holder
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

An employee developed carpal tunnel syndrome. Before receiving medical treatment for that condition, he accepted an offer from his employer to resign in exchange for a lump sum payment of his retirement benefits. The offer was unrelated to the work injury. The trial court granted the employer’s motion for partial summary judgment, finding that Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A) (2008) limited the employee’s award of benefits to one and one-half times the anatomical impairment in light of his voluntary retirement. On the date scheduled for trial, the trial court declined to hear evidence or permit an offer of proof concerning the voluntariness of his retirement and the extent of his vocational disability. Judgment was entered awarding permanent partial disability of one and one-half times the medical impairment. The employee has appealed. We vacate the judgment and remand the case to the trial court for a determination on the merits of the case.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/02/12
Betty Franklin v. Duro Standard Products Co., Inc.
W2011-01212-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

In this claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the trial court awarded permanent partial disability benefits to the employee for hearing loss. Her employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by admitting the testimony of the employee’s medical expert into evidence and by finding that her hearing loss was caused by her employment. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Chester County Workers Compensation Panel 07/30/12
Jeff King v. Gerdau Ameristeel US, Inc.
W2011-01414-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

An injured employee returned to work for his pre-injury employer. The employee was moved to a different area and worked fewer overtime hours because of his medical restrictions. The trial court held that the employee did not have a meaningful return to work pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A) (2008) and awarded permanent partial disability benefits in excess of one and one-half times the anatomical impairment. The employer appealed. We hold that the employee had a meaningful return to work and that Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A) limits the employee’s recovery to one and one-half times the anatomical impairment. We therefore modify the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 07/30/12
Bryan E. Brown v. Vintec Company et al.
M2011-01308-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III

The employee sustained a compensable injury to his lower back in August 1999. He returned to work in August 2000. He had back spasms related to the injury in May 2001 that caused him to be off work until August 2001. Thereafter, he worked until December 2008, when he was permanently laid off due to economic conditions. The settlement of his workers’ compensation claim, which was approved by the trial court in July 2001, was based on the two-and-one-half times impairment cap, Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-241(a), and preserved his right to seek reconsideration on loss of employment. Following the December 2008 layoff, he filed this petition for reconsideration. His employer contended that reconsideration was time-barred by section 50-6-241(a)(2) because his loss of employment occurred more than 400 weeks after he returned to work in August 2000. The employee argued that his correct return to work date was in August 2001, and his petition was therefore timely. The trial court agreed with the employer, for whom judgment was entered, and the employee has appealed. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 07/27/12