Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 09/19/2014
Format: 09/19/2014
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
Linda Princinsky v. Premier Manufacturing Services, Inc. et al.
M2011-00904-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jim T. Hamilton

This is the second appeal in this matter. In the first appeal, the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel affirmed the trial court’s judgment finding the employee permanently and totally disabled. The Panel held, however, that the trial court’s judgment should be reduced by the 272 weeks of benefits the employer had previously paid the employee. Therefore, the Panel remanded the case to the trial court for entry of a judgment consistent with its opinion. On remand, the trial court applied the 272-week credit as the Panel had directed. The trial court also reapportioned liability and modified the date on which the employee’s permanent total disability benefits began to accrue. The trial court’s modification effectively increased the employee’s award from the 496.86 weeks it had awarded the employee in the original appeal to 697.14 weeks. Employer has appealed, contending that the reapportionment of liability and the modification of the date upon which benefits accrued conflict with the mandate of the previous appeal. We conclude that employer’s contentions are correct and reverse the trial court’s judgment.
 

Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 07/27/12
Tommy W. House v. Nissan North America et al
M2011-01481-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ron Thurman

The employee alleged that he suffered a compensable injury to his right shoulder in July 2008. His employer contended that the employee’s complaints were a continuation of a February 2006 injury to the same shoulder which was the subject of an earlier settlement. In the alternative, the employer contended that any award of benefits should be limited to one-and-one-half times the anatomical impairment in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A), because the employee resigned in April 2010 pursuant to a voluntary buyout program. The trial court found that the employee had sustained a new injury in July 2008 and that his resignation was reasonably related to the work injury, and therefore, the lower cap did not apply. A judgment awarding benefits was entered, and the employer has appealed. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 

DeKalb County Workers Compensation Panel 07/26/12
Ricky Sullivan v. Behlen Manufacturing Company, Inc.
W2011-01677-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee suffered a compensable back injury. The trial court awarded 80% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. His employer appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by basing its award on the impairment rating of the employee’s evaluating physician, by accepting the employee’s testimony concerning his limitations in light of questions concerning his credibility, and by making an excessive award. We affirm the judgment.

Carroll County Workers Compensation Panel 07/19/12
Christopher Allen Scoggins v. Jenkins Masonry, Inc.
E2011-01176-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Larry H. Puckett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee acquired contact dermatitis, which caused a chronic skin condition of his hands and feet, due to his exposure to potassium dichromate in the workplace. The trial court found that he was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the condition. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding. We affirm the judgment.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 06/27/12
Scott House v. YRC, Inc. et al.
M2011-01535-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge J. S. "Steve" Daniel
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda MClendon

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. This is a reconsideration case. The employee settled his claim for one and one-half times the anatomical impairment in 2007. In 2008, his employer merged with a second company to form a new corporate entity. The employee continued to be employed by the new entity in the same location, working under the same collective bargaining agreement that he had been under prior to his injury. The trial court found that he had lost his employment for purposes of Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-241(d)(1)(B) and awarded additional permanent disability benefits. The employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by finding that a loss of employment occurred. In the alternative, Employer argues that the evidence preponderates against an award of additional benefits. We affirm the judgment.
 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 06/22/12
Joe Sissom v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.
M2011-00363-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley

The employee alleged that he injured his right shoulder while working for the employer. The trial court found that the employee’s thoracic outlet syndrome stemmed from a congenital abnormality and not a work-related injury. The employee has appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Warren County Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/12
In Re: Foreign Court Subpoena Jane Doe v. USA Swimming et al.
M2011-01718-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

A non-party deponent appeals the imposition of $6,635 in monetary sanctions under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 37.01(4). The non-party deponent, a Tennessee resident, was subpoenaed to give a deposition concerning a civil action pending in a California state court pursuant to a foreign court subpoena, which was issued and served in accordance with the Uniform Depositions and Discovery Act, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 24-9-201 through -207. During the deposition, the deponent’s attorney objected to almost every question in an argumentative and suggestive manner, often without providing a proper basis for the objection, consulted with the deponent at length several times during questioning, and unilaterally terminated the deposition without seeking a protective order. The California defendants who attempted to take the deposition filed a motion to compel discovery and to recover their expenses pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 37.01. The trial court granted the motion and held the non-party deponent liable for the defendants’ expenses. The deponent appeals contending that he did not obstruct the deposition, that the sanctions are the result of his attorney’s misconduct, and that his attorney should be solely responsible for the sanctions. Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 37.01(4) affords the trial court the discretion to require a deponent whose conduct necessitated a motion to compel, or the attorney advising such conduct, or both of them to pay to the moving party’s reasonable expenses. The manner in which the deponent’s attorney conducted the deposition amounted to clear violations of Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure 30.03 and 30.04. Except for certain circumstances not at issue here, a lawyer’s misconduct is attributable to and binding on the client; therefore, the deponent should not be excused from liability for his attorney’s misconduct, especially considering the deponent is experienced in giving depositions and knew or should have known his attorney’s conduct was outrageous and in violation of the rules of discovery. Moreover,because trialcourts have broad discretion in determining when to impose sanctions and against whom, such decisions are reviewed on appeal pursuant to the very deferential abuse of discretion standard. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

Williamson County Workers Compensation Panel 06/12/12