Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 11/27/2014
Format: 11/27/2014
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
Marvin Windows of Tennessee, Inc. v. James Gardner
W2011-01479-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker

The employee was injured in 2007 and returned to work for his pre-injury employer. The employee’s claim was settled in November 2007 and was subject to the one and one-half times impairment cap set out in Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A). In July 2009, the employee was diagnosed with cancer, and he took a medical leave of absence. The employee remained on leave for over one year. The employer’s policy permitted one year of medical leave. When the employee was unable to return to work in July 2010, he was terminated pursuant to that policy. The employee then sought reconsideration of the November 2007 settlement. The trial court found that the employee was not eligible for reconsideration. The employee has appealed, contending that the trial court’s ruling was erroneous. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lauderdale County Workers Compensation Panel 06/08/12
Sammy T. Robertson v. Roadway Express, Inc.
E2011-01384-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

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 injured his lower back on August 22, 2005. The trial court approved a settlement of his workers’ compensation claim in 2008. The order approving the workers’ compensation settlement provided for future authorized medical treatment in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204. In January 2011, the employee’s treating physician recommended a surgical procedure. The employer’s medical utilization review provider determined that the medical necessity of the procedure was not documented, and the employer denied approval for the procedure. The employee appealed the decision to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“the Department”), and the Department’s medical director did not overturn the utilization review decision. The employee then filed a petition in the trial court, seeking an order requiring the employer to authorize the surgery. The trial court granted the petition but denied the employee’s application for attorney’s fees. The employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by granting the petition, that the employee failed to exhaust his administrative remedy, and that the petition is barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel. The employee has appealed from the denial of an award of attorney’s fees. We vacate the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the case without reaching the merits of the appeal.

Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 06/08/12
Cynthia Simmons v. Ken-Kel Management, Inc., et al.
W2011-01924-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenny W. Armstrong

An employee filed a motion requesting that a former employer be ordered to provide postjudgment medical treatment. After a hearing, the trial court granted the employee’s motion. The former employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred in granting the employee’s motion. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 06/01/12
Vicki Marsh v. Farrar Holliman and Medley et al.
M2011-00812-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Walter C. Kurtz, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry G. Ross

The only issue before the trial court was the apportionment of liability between the employer and the Second Injury Fund. The employee had two compensable injuries prior to the injury that rendered her permanently and totally disabled. The trial court found that those injuries had caused 85% permanent partial disability. Based on that finding, it held the employer liable for 15% of the award and the Second Injury Fund liable for 85% of the award. We find that the trial court incorrectly applied Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6208(a)(1)(2008), and modify the award accordingly.
 

Warren County Workers Compensation Panel 05/17/12
Stephen Wheeler v. Cleo Wrap, Inc. et al.
W2011-00336-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenny W. Armstrong

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee suffered a fractured wrist as a result of  workplace accident. He contended that he also sustained a neck injury and post-traumatic tress disorder from the accident. The trial court awarded benefits for the wrist injury only, and the employee has appealed. We affirm the judgment.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 05/16/12
Delta Faucet Company v. Jeffrey Noles - Concurring in part and dissenting in part
W2011-00383-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

I concur fully in the majority’s conclusions on all issues except for the notice of the aggravation or advancement of the carpel tunnel syndrome claim, and it is on that issue that I must respectfully dissent. On the issue of notice the trial court found that “Notice was available to Delta not only through its pre-employment physical, but through its own doctor's records, particularly Dr. Pearce who performed CT surgery on Noles. No prejudice was shown to Delta by any delay in notice.” I fully agree with the majority’s conclusions that Delta did not receive proper notice from the preemployment physical and Dr. Pearce’s medical records. The majority correctly states that Mr. Noles testified that he informed Delta’s plant nurse that he had numbness in his left hand and right thumb at the time he reported his elbow injury and that Delta did not produce the plant nurse to testify at trial. The majority then states that Mr. Noles’ testimony on that point was unrefuted at trial. Since the trial court had resolved some conflicts in evidence in favor of Mr. Noles, the majority infers that the trial court accredited Mr. Noles’ testimony on the notice issue as well. Based upon this inference the majority concludes that Delta received notice of the advancement of the carpel tunnel injury by way of Mr. Noles’ conversation with Delta’s plant nurse.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 05/11/12