Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Workers' Compensation Opinions

Format: 09/21/2014
Format: 09/21/2014
Jo Dean Nuchols v. Blount County, Tennessee
E2013-00574-SC-WCM-WC

An employee alleged that she sustained a mental injury as a result of a confrontation with her supervisor, the Sheriff of Blount County. The trial court found that she had failed to provide notice of her injury as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-201 (Supp. 2001) and dismissed her complaint. The trial court made an alternative finding that she was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the incident. The employee has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding on the notice issue. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court dismissing the employee’s claim.

Authoring Judge: Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Originating Judge: Judge Harold Wimberly
Blount County Workers Compensation Panel 09/19/14
Michael Corey Peterson v. McMillan's Roofing and HVAC
E2013-02130-SC-R3-WC

After recovering from a work-related injury, the employee returned to work for his pre-injury employer but resigned after only a few days. Later, he made a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. At the conclusion of the proof, the trial court ruled that the employee was deprived of a meaningful return to work and awarded benefits in excess of one and one-half times his physical medical impairment rating. The employer has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by so finding and that the one and one-half times cap should apply. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Originating Judge: Chancellor John F. Weaver
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 08/25/14
Jerry Simons v. A. O. Smith Corporation
M2013-01350-WC-R3-WC

An employee alleged he injured his back on two occasions during late 2008.  His employer initially accepted the second claim as compensable, but then denied the claim after receiving records from the employee’s primary care physician. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development denied the employee’s Request for Assistance. This civil action was subsequently filed in the Chancery Court for Montgomery County. That court awarded workers’ compensation benefits to the employee. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings concerning causation and permanency. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 

Authoring Judge: Special Judge J. B. Cox
Originating Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.
Montgomery County Workers Compensation Panel 08/20/14
Madia Dia v. Imports Collision Center, Inc.
M2013-01496-WC-R3-WC

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 filed a request for reconsideration pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-241(d)(1)(B), which Employer opposed on the ground that Employee’s loss of employment was due to Employee’s voluntary resignation and/or his employment-related misconduct.  The trial court ruled that Employer failed to carry its burden of proof as to either of the asserted grounds for denying reconsideration.  The trial court therefore granted Employee’s request for reconsideration and awarded increased benefits.  Based on our review of the entire record, we reverse the trial court’s judgment.
 

Authoring Judge: Special Judge J. B. Cox
Originating Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/20/14
Karen R. Woods v. ACE-American Insurance, Et Al.
E2013-01916-SC-R3-WC

The employee fell at work and suffered a lower back injury. She received medical treatment, including two back surgeries, over a period of years. The trial court awarded permanent disability benefits based on the employee’s back injury and a bladder and bowel dysfunction that developed during her subsequent treatment. Her employer’s insurer has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by adopting one medical expert’s disability rating over
another, by finding that the bladder and bowel dysfunction was caused by the work-related injury, and by awarding benefits in excess of the one and one-half times impairment cap because the employee voluntarily resigned. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the
judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Judge E. Riley Anderson
Originating Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody
Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 08/15/14
United Parcel Service, Inc., et al. v. Kenneth Cameron
E2013-02001-SC-R3-WC

The employee was injured in a motor vehicle accident while at work. He claimed permanent injury to his left elbow and left shoulder. The trial court found that his left elbow was permanently injured but that his left shoulder was not permanently injured. The employee has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by not finding that the left shoulder was permanently injured, by not awarding additional temporary disability benefits, and by failing to order surgery for his left shoulder. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Judge E. Riley Anderson
Originating Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams
Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 08/15/14
Rhonda Kyle v. Volunteer Home Care of West Tennessee, Inc.
W2013-01892-WC-R3-WC

An employee sustained a work-related injury to her back while working as a nursing assistant for her employer. The employee received medical care, returned to work, but experienced pain in performing her job. Two years later, the employee resigned, citing back pain related to her work. After an unsuccessful Benefit Review Conference, the employee filed an action for workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court determined that the employee did not make a meaningful return to work following her injury and awarded permanent partial disability benefits in excess of one and one-half times the employee’s anatomical impairment rating. The employer appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by concluding that the employee did not make a meaningful return to work. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Judge J. S. "Steve" Daniel
Originating Judge: Judge Martha B. Brasfield
McNairy County Workers Compensation Panel 08/07/14
John M. Reitz v. Trinet HR Corporation et al.
M2013-01483-WC-R3-WC

In this case, the employee alleged tha he sustained a compensable aggravation of preexisting arthritis in his knee as a result of a fall at work. His employer denied that he had a permanent disability as a result of the event.  The trial court awarded benefits, and the employer has appealed. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51.  We affirm the judgment.   

Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Originating Judge: Chancellor C. K. Smith
Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/07/14
Ronald Brown v. Netherlands Insurance Company
E2013-01935-SC-R3-WC

After a work-related accident in August of 2010, the employee filed suit against his employer for workers’ compensation benefits, claiming permanent injury to both knees. The employer agreed that the injury to the employee’s right knee was compensable, but contended that the injury to the left knee was not work related. The trial court found for the employee, awarding benefits for injuries to each knee. The employer appealed. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Originating Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton
Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 07/30/14
Teddy Wayne Wilcutt v. CAM Electric Systems, et al.
W2013-00772-WC-R3-WC

An employee sustained work-related injuries to his head, neck, and shoulders after being struck by a falling ladder. The trial court awarded the employee 60% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The employer appealed, arguing that the employee failed to prove causation. After carefully reviewing the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Originating Judge: Judge William Michael Maloan
Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 07/28/14
Judy McClendon v. Food Lion, LLC
E2013-00380-WC-R3-WC

Employee settled her workers’ compensation claim in 1997, with her employer agreeing to provide future medical benefits. Her authorized treating physician later retired, and in November 2007, the employee selected a new physician from a panel provided by her employer. The new physician recommended a home exercise program, which the employee believed was not adequate treatment. She filed a petition requesting a new panel of physicians. Her employer opposed the petition, contending that it had provided treatment in accordance with the law and the terms of the settlement. The trial court ordered the employer to provide a panel of orthopaedic surgeons to evaluate the employee’s current need for treatment. The employer has appealed, and the 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Authoring Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, Sr.
Originating Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III
Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 07/11/14
Mary Wheetley v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01707-SC-WCM-WC

This appeal involves a claim for workers’ compensation benefits filed by a nurse employed
at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute. The nurse filed a claim with the Tennessee
Claims Commission because she believed that she had contracted tuberculosis when her hand came into contact with a patient’s blood. The claims commissioner dismissed the nurse’s claim on the basis that she failed to produce expert medical evidence that she had
tuberculosis, and the nurse sought judicial review under Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51. We affirm the
judgment of the Claims Commission.

Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Originating Judge: Tennessee Claims Commission
Workers Compensation Panel 06/25/14
Sheila Cameron v. Memorial Health Care Systems,Inc., et al.
E2013-01225-WC-R3-WC

A registered nurse sustained a compensable injury to her neck. The trial court found that she was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the injury. Her employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by failing to cap the award at oneand- one-half times the impairment rating pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A). In the alternative, the employer asserts that the trial court erred by awarding permanent total disability benefits. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Judge Ben H. Cantrell, Sr.
Originating Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett
Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 06/10/14
Marvin Windows of Tennessee v. Bobby L. Williams
W2013-02193-SC-R3-WC

An employee suffered a work-related injury to his back. The employer acknowledged that the injury was compensable but disputed the extent of permanent partial impairment and the reasonableness of the employee’s decision to take early retirement. The trial court awarded the employee 28% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole, and the employer
appealed, contending that the trial court erred in failing to cap the award at one-and-one-half times the anatomical impairment pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d). The employee also appeals, arguing that the trial court erroneously concluded that he was not permanently and totally disabled. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s determination that the employee is permanently and partially disabled. We reverse, however, the trial court’s determination that the statutory cap of one-and-one-half times the anatomical impairment rating does not apply and remand to the trial court for a determination of the employee’s vocational disability consistent with this opinion.

Authoring Judge: Judge J.S. "Steve" Daniel
Originating Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III
Lauderdale County Workers Compensation Panel 06/05/14
Johann G. Merx v. Duro Standard Products Co., Inc.
W2013-00666-SC-WCM-WC

An employee sustained a work-related injury after a mechanical loading dock malfunctioned and a dock plate struck him in the knee. His employer denied the claim, contending that the event could not have occurred in the manner described by the employee. The trial court ruled in favor of the employer and dismissed the employee’s complaint. The trial court also entered alternative findings if causation were proven, limiting the employee’s recovery to 1.5% vocational disability. The employee has appealed. We reverse and remand the case for entry of a judgment consistent with the trial court’s alternative findings.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald E. Parish
Originating Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler
Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 05/15/14
Bobby R. Bean v. Johnson Controls, Inc. et al.
M2013-01010-WC-R3-WC

This appeal involves the compensability of an alleged aggravation of a pre-existing degenerative back condition. After the employee began experiencing increased and more severe pain in his back, he filed a workers’ compensation claim in the Chancery Court for Marshall County against his employer, its insurer, and the Second Injury Fund. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded the employee temporary total and permanent partial disability benefits. The employer’s 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. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Originating Judge: Chancellor J. B. Cox
Marshall County Workers Compensation Panel 04/30/14
Dennie Stough v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
W2012-02275-WC-R3-WC

An employee sustained a compensable lower back injury, had surgery, returned to work, and settled his claim. Several months later, he re-injured his lower back. After several surgical procedures, he was unable to return to work. He filed this action for workers’ compensation benefits against his employer and the Second Injury Fund. The trial court awarded permanent total disability benefits, apportioning 50% of the award to the employer and 50% to the Fund. The Fund has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by assigning any liability to it because the later injury rendered the employee  totally disabled without regard to the first injury. We conclude that the trial court failed to provide the basis for its apportionment of liability between the Fund and the employer. We therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment to that extent and remand the case for further consideration on this issue.

Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Originating Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan
Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 04/11/14
Jose Umanzor v. Zurich American Insurance Company et al.
W2012-02568-WC-R3-WC

An employee asserted that he injured his lower back while working as a construction laborer for his employer. Approximately two years after the incident, the employee provided written notice of his injury to his employer. The employer denied the claim, contending that the employee failed to give timely notice of his injury and that his claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court agreed with the employer and entered judgment in its favor. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Justice Janice M. Holder
Originating Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 04/10/14
Associated Wholesale Grocers v. Lawrence F. Ling
M2013-01317-WC-R3-WC

In this workers’ compensation action, the employee alleged that he sustained a compensable aggravation of his pre-existing spinal condition. The trial court ruled that he failed to satisfy his burden of proof and dismissed the complaint. The employee has appealed. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Originating Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 04/01/14
Jennifer Gray v. Zanini Tennessee, Inc.
M2013-00762-WC-R3-WC

The trial court dismissed the employee’s workers’ compensation action because the employee had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies prior to filing suit as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-203(a)(1) (2008). The employee’s 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Originating Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart
Franklin County Workers Compensation Panel 04/01/14
David DeGalliford v. United Cabinet Company, LLC et al.
M2013-00943-WC-R3-WC

In early 2012, an employee alleged that he suffered a gradual injury to his cervical spine due to strenuous repetitive tasks and heavy lifting required by his employment. He reported the injury to his employer, who denied the claim on the basis that the injury was not compensable under Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-102(12)(C)(ii) (Supp. 2011). This statute, which applies to injuries occurring after July 1, 2011, provides that “cumulative trauma conditions” do not include injuries resulting from repetitive work activities “unless such conditions arose primarily out of and in the course and scope of employment.” The employee’s treating physician testified that the employee’s repetitive tasks at work were the primary cause of his injury. Another doctor, however, who examined the employee’s medical records on behalf of his employer, testified that the employee’s injury was caused by a degenerative disc disease common in the aging process. The trial court ruled for the employee, and the employer appealed. In accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the 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. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it relied on the testimony of the employee’s treating physician, who testified that the employee’s work activities were the primary cause of the employee’s injuries. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Originating Judge: Judge Amanda McClendon
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 03/17/14
George Hollars v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al.
M203-00144-WC-R3-WC

In this workers’ compensation appeal the employer asserts that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the employee’s injury was permanent. The employee, a package car driver for United Parcel Service, experienced two episodes of heat exhaustion while at work. The trial court found the heat exhaustion to be permanent and awarded benefits for permanent partial disability and the employer appealed. The 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 Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We reverse the decision of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Originating Judge: Chancellor C. K. Smith
Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 03/07/14
Johnnie Hudson v. Pro Logistics, et al.
M2013-00387-WC-R3-WC

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 trial court found the employee suffered compensable injuries to his neck and back stemming from a motor vehicle accident and awarded him 54% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The employer has appealed, asserting the trial court’s award is excessive. Having carefully reviewed the record, we reverse the trial court’s judgment with respect to the impairment to the cervical spine and affirm in all other respects.

Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Originating Judge: Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III
Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 02/20/14
Alvin Hayes v. Sharp Transport Co. and Cherokee Insurance Co.
M2013-00932-WC-R3-WC

In accordance with 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 suffered compensable injuries to his lower back and right shoulder. Employer asserted that the permanent disability award for employee’s injury should be capped at one and one half times his impairment rating because employee had voluntarily resigned. Following a bench trial the trial court found that the statutory cap of one and one half times did not apply to employee’s permanent partial disability benefits because employee’s retirement was reasonably related to his workplace injury and therefore he did not have a meaningful return to work. Based on an impairment rating of eleven percent the trial court awarded 35 percent permanent partial disability benefits. We find there was a meaningful return to work and accordingly we reverse the trial court judgment.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Originating Judge: Chancellor Stella Hargrove
Lawrence County Workers Compensation Panel 02/20/14
Tamara Simerly v. Crete Carrier Corporation
M2013-00236-WC-R3-WC

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this 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 case the employee was an over-the-road truck driver attempting to make a delivery of refrigerated goods in Atlanta, Georgia. Because she was late, she was forced to wait 11 hours in her truck in high temperatures without air conditioning. She suffered a ruptured aneurysm as she exited the truck to complete the unloading process, which she alleged was caused by the high temperatures, anxiety, and emotional stress. Her employer denied the claim, and she filed suit for workers’ compensation benefits in Rutherford County, Tennessee. The trial court found that the ruptured aneurysm was caused by the stress of work conditions and awarded 65% permanent partial disability. The employer has appealed. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Originating Judge: Judge Robert E. Corlew, III
Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 02/14/14