Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Workers' Compensation Opinions

Format: 04/21/2014
Format: 04/21/2014
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
Bessie Cawthon v. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City, et al.
W2012-02138-SC-WCM-WC

An employee sustained a work-related injury to her shoulder while working as a licensed practical nurse at her employer’s hospital. After returning to work in a modified-duty position for several months after a second shoulder surgery, the employee elected to have knee replacement surgery to remedy pre-existing arthritis that was unrelated to her work. Unfortunately, the knee replacement surgery caused the employee to develop “foot drop.” The employee subsequently exhausted her available leave time because of a prolonged recovery, and the employer terminated her employment. The employee filed the present action seeking permanent total disability benefits. The trial court initially found that the employee had a meaningful return to work and capped her award at one and one-half times her anatomical impairment. The court, however, granted the employee’s motion to alter or amend and found that she did not have a meaningful return to work and  that she was permanently and totally disabled. The trial court apportioned the award between the employer and the Second Injury Fund, and both parties appealed. We conclude that the employee is not permanently and totally disabled and that she  made a meaningful return to work after her shoulder surgeries. We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Originating Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan
Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 01/15/14
Samuel Arthur Skaggs v. Marty Phillips d/b/a Phillips Concrete et al.
E2012-02479-WC-R3-WC

The employee was injured when a concrete grinder he was operating exploded, breaking his jaw and several teeth. After his jaw was surgically repaired and he underwent extensive dental treatment, the employee did not return to work for his employer. The employee filed an action in the Chancery Court for Sullivan County seeking permanent disability benefits. The trial court found that the employee sustained a permanent vocational disability of 35%. The employer appealed, claiming that the trial court erred by failing to exclude the testimony of the treating dentist and by finding that the employee sustained any permanent disability. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the appeal has been referred to a Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Originating Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody
Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 01/15/14
Albert H. Simpkins v. A. O. Smith Corporation, et al.
M2012-02665-WC-R3-WC

This appeal calls into question the sufficiency of the evidence to support an award of workers’ compensation disability benefits related to the aggravation of a pre-existing cervical injury. After settling a claim for an earlier lumbar and cervical injury, the employee filed a new claim in the Circuit Court for Williamson County seeking compensation for aggravation of that injury. The employer insisted that the employee’s condition was a continuation of the prior injury. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that, as a result of performing repetitive tasks, the employee had sustained a new cervical injury and awarded the employee permanent total disability benefits. The employer appealed, asserting (1) that the evidence preponderates against the findings regarding causation and permanency and (2) that the testimony of the employee’s examining physician should be disregarded because it does not comply with the AMA Guides. 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 have determined that the evidence does not support the trial court’s conclusion that the employee sustained a new injury and, therefore, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Originating Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Williamson County Workers Compensation Panel 01/15/14
Jeffrey L. Beeler v. DeRoyal Industries, Inc., et al
E2012-02340-WC-R3-WC

An employee alleged that he sustained a gradual aggravation of a preexisting lower back condition during the eleven months he worked for his employer. The employer denied the claim, contending that the employee’s condition and symptoms were merely the natural progression of an injury that he had suffered many years earlier. The trial court found for the employer and dismissed the complaint. The employee has appealed that decision, asserting that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s decision. Pursuant to 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 affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge J.S. Daniel
Originating Judge: Judge Dale C. Workman
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 01/14/14
Aramark, Indemnity Insurance Company of North America and Sue Ann Head, Admin. v. Jeremy Nix
M2012-02608-WC-R3-WC

An employee alleged he suffered a compensable injury to his lower back.  His employer disputed a compensable injury occurred.  In the alternative, the employer asserted any award of permanent disability benefits should be limited to one and one-half times the medical impairment because the employee had been terminated for misconduct. The trial court found employee had sustained a compensable injury and did not have a meaningful return  to work.  It awarded 42% permanent  partial disability (“PPD”), six times the medical impairment.  The employer has appealed, asserting the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings. The employer also contends the award was excessive and the trial court erred by denying its motion to stay a portion of the judgment requiring payment of certain medical expenses. 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: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Originating Judge: Judge Carol Soloman
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 01/14/14
Timothy Gilliam v. Bridgestone North American Tire, LLC
M2012-02436-WC-R3-WC

This appeal involves an employee’s eligibility to seek reconsideration of a workers’ compensation settlement. An employee who sustained a compensable shoulder injury returned to work and settled his workers’ compensation claim. He was later laid off after his physician modified the restrictions for an earlier unrelated injury to his foot. Thereafter, the employee filed suit in the Chancery Court for Coffee County seeking reconsideration of the settlement of his shoulder injury. While this suit was pending,the employee returned to work as the result of a confidential settlement between his employer and the EEOC. Following a bench trial, the trial court determined that the employee could seek reconsideration of the settlement for his injured shoulder and awarded the employee additional disability benefits. The employer appealed and asserted that the employee was not entitled to seek reconsideration because, despite the layoff, he had never been “subsequently no longer employed by the pre-injury employer” as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6241(d)(1)(B)(ii)(2008). 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: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Originating Judge: Chancellor Vanessa A. Jackson
Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 12/16/13
Michael Johnson v. Zeledyne, LLC et al.
M2013-00147-WC-R3-WC

This appeal takes issue with an award of permanent partial disability benefits in a workers’ compensation case. After sustaining a compensable knee injury, the employee filed suit seeking workers’ compensation benefits in the Circuit Court for Wilson County. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded the employee the maximum disability award permitted by the circumstances. On this appeal, the employer takes issue with the trial court’s exclusion of the testimony of an evaluating physician on the ground that he had not personally examined the employee and with the amount of the disability award. 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 find that the trial court erred by excluding the physician’s testimony but that this error was harmless. We also find that the evidence supports the trial court’s disability award. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.

Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Originating Judge: Judge Clara Byrd
Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 12/11/13
George Wayne Edwards v. Velma Childs, et al
E2012-02592-WC-R3-WC

An employee worked as a skidder operator for the employer’s logging company. The employee’s face and eyelid were lacerated when the chainsaw that he was operating “kicked back.” The employee briefly returned to work within a few weeks after his accident, but he was unable to continue working due to eye pain. The employee subsequently underwent eight surgeries on his face and eye. Although the employer admitted that the employee’s injury was compensable, it argued that his award should be capped at one and one-half times his impairment rating and that the medical testimony concerning his impairment was not credible. The trial court found that the employee was permanently and totally disabled. The employer appealed, arguing that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings. The employee, however, contends that the employer’s appeal is frivolous and seeks liquidated damages pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-225(h). We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Originating Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant
Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 12/10/13
Lorraine English v. Compass Group USA, Inc. d/b/a Canteen Vending Services
E2012-02732-WC-R3-WC

An employee was injured when she fell from a stack of soft drinks while attempting to climb a wall to rescue and remove a feral cat from her employer’s premises. Her employer denied the claim, contending that she was on a private mission at the time of her injury and also that she had violated a safety rule by failing to use a ladder. The employee filed this action seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The trial was bifurcated. After the initial hearing, the trial court found that the employee’s action was related in part to her employment and, therefore, compensable. After a subsequent hearing, the court awarded benefits. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings on compensability and, in the alternative, that the claim is barred by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-110(a) (2008). 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: Special Judge Larry H. Puckett
Originating Judge: Chancellor R. Jerry Beck
Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 12/09/13
Linda Carten ex rel. Daniel John Carten v. MBI and/or Mr. Bult's, Inc., et al.
W2012-01507-SC-WCM-WC

An employee died from “traumatic asphyxiation” after a front-end loader accidentally pushed him into a trailer loaded with garbage. The employee’s widow sought workers’ compensation death benefits. The employer denied that the employee was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and raised the affirmative defenses of willful misconduct and willful failure to use a safety device. Following a trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the employer, and the employee’s widow appealed.  We affirm.

Authoring Judge: Judge Tony A. Childress
Originating Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley
Benton County Workers Compensation Panel 11/14/13
Latarius Houston v. MTD Consumer Group, Inc.
W2012-01975-WC-R3-WC

The parties stipulated that the employee suffered work-related injuries to both arms and that she was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits based on a 40 percent disability to each arm. The trial court found that the employee’s average weekly wage was $463.92 and that her compensation rate was $309.28 per week. The employer has appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in calculating the employee’s average weekly wage. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for computation of the average weekly wage and for entry of a revised judgment.

Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Originating Judge: Judge George R. Ellis
Haywood County Workers Compensation Panel 10/25/13
Michael Anthony Brim v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company et al.
M2012-01565-WC-R3-WC

In this workers’ compensation case, the employee alleged that he injured his right shoulder and left hip when he fell while entering a vehicle. His employer accepted the shoulder injury as compensable, but denied the hip claim. The employee had surgery on both the shoulder and hip and eventually returned to his pre-injury job. The trial court found that the hip injury was compensable and awarded permanent disability benefits for both injuries. The employer has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding regarding the hip injury. 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: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Originating Judge: Chancellor Tom E. Gray
Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/13
Jessie Upchurch v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
W2012-01869-WC-R3-WC

The trial court awarded an employee 85% permanent partial disability to both ears. The employer has appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in finding the employee’s claim was not barred by the one-year statute of limitations in Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-203(b). We affirm the trial court’s determination that the employee’s claim was timely filed.

Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Originating Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan
Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 10/18/13
Tony Wayne Wilson v. Bill Jennings et al.
E2012-01966-SC-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. This is the second appeal of this case. We previously affirmed the trial court’s award of temporary total disability benefits and past medical expenses, but reversed its decision not to award permanent disability benefits and future medical expenses. Wilson v. Jennings, No. E2010-02028-WC-R3-WC, 2012 WL 727853 (Tenn. Workers’ Comp. Panel Mar. 6, 2012). On remand, the trial court heard additional medical, vocational and other proof as to the employee’s anatomical impairment and vocational disability. Based on that evidence, it awarded 200 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits and future medical expenses. The employer has again appealed, contending that the trial court erred by denying its motion for sanctions, by denying its motion in limine to exclude certain medical testimony, by relying on the proof of the employee’s vocational expert and by awarding discretionary costs. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Originating Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp
Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 09/19/13
Danny Ray Grooms v. City of Trenton, Tennessee, et al.
W2012-01872-WC-R3-WC

The employee, a sanitation worker, was struck in the groin area when he fell onto a bed frame. Within a few days, he developed swelling and infection of same. His treating physician testified that the condition was not caused by the work injury, and an evaluating physician testified that the employee’s condition was consistent with the injury. The trial court found that the swelling and infection were not related to the work injury and dismissed employee’s complaint. The employee appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge Tony A. Childress
Originating Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis
Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/12/13
Lisa G. Dixon v. Nissan North America, Inc. et al.
M2012-02495-WC-R3-WC

The issues in this case are (1) whether the evidence supports an award of 8% to the body as a whole for an injury covered by the Workers’ Compensation statutes of this state, and (2) whether the trial judge erred in multiplying that award by a factor of six in the final judgment. 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 conclude that the medical proof supports the trial court’s finding of an 8% anatomical impairment and that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that the employee is entitled to receive permanent partial disability benefits of six times the anatomical impairment rating. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment awarding the employee permanent partial disability benefits of 48% to the body as a whole.

Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Originating Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart
Franklin County Workers Compensation Panel 09/05/13