Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Workers' Compensation Opinions

Format: 07/03/2020
Format: 07/03/2020
Timothy Woody v. North Brothers, Inc.
E2001-00521-WC-R3-CV
The first issue presented by this appeal is whether there is evidence to support a finding of permanent impairment of pulmonary function as a result of the migration to the lung of an embolus from a clot created as a result of an injury to the plaintiff's lower extremity. If there is such evidence, the next issue is whether there can be a disability rating to the body as a whole where there is an injury to a scheduled member. After a close review of the record and consideration of the arguments of counsel, we believe that the evidence supports only a finding of a possible future injury to the lung from another embolus from the clot, rather than a present permanent injury. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further findings. Because of the conclusion on the first issue, we do not reach the second.The first issue presented by this appeal is whether there is evidence to support a finding of permanent impairment of pulmonary function as a result of the migration to the lung of an embolus from a clot created as a result of an injury to the plaintiff's lower extremity. If there is such evidence, the next issue is whether there can be a disability rating to the body as a whole where there is an injury to a scheduled member. After a close review of the record and consideration of the arguments of counsel, we believe that the evidence supports only a finding of a possible future injury to the lung from another embolus from the clot, rather than a present permanent injury. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further findings. Because of the conclusion on the first issue, we do not reach the second.
Authoring Judge: W. Neil Thomas, III
Originating Judge: Jerri Bryant, Chancellor
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 02/25/97
Angela Thurman v. Cna Ins. Co., et al.
01S01-9605-CH-00089
Authoring Judge: William S. Russell, Retired Judge
Originating Judge: Hon.
Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
Douglas W. Taylor v. Bgl Mining Co., Inc., et al.
01S01-9604-CH-00066
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The fundamental issue in this case is whether an injury on the way from work occurring on a road neither owned nor maintained by the employer, but which is the only available route from the work place, was an injury "arising out of and in the course of employment." Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-12(a)(4). We conclude that it is not and affirm the trial court's summary judgment for the employer. Tennessee Consolidated Coal Company (TCC) uses independent contractors to mine coal on its 35, Cumberland Plateau acres by leasing individual mines to individual operators. The plaintiff's employer, BGL Mining Company, leased mine 34, and mined TCC's coal for which TCC paid BGL a per- ton fee. TCC hauled the coal away from mine 34 and other mines on a haul road TCC built and maintained along the Marion-Sequatchie county line. The haul road was the only way to get to and from mine 34. The private road leads from a county road a short distance from the county road's intersection with Tennessee Highway 18. TCC's haul roads are strictly private roads, and TCC limits access to them. Victoria Arlene Anderson did not have permission to use TCC's haul road on the afternoon of March 11, 1992, but she drove her Dodge pick-up on it anyway and collided head-on with the plaintiff's car as he was driving from his work at mine 34. The severely injured plaintiff was air-lifted to Chattanooga's Erlanger Medical Center. -2-
Authoring Judge: Robert S. Brandt, Senior Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Jeffrey F. Stewart,
Marion County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
James W. Smith v. Wilson County Concrete Co., et al.
01S01-9604-CR-00073
Authoring Judge: William S. Russell, Retired Judge
Originating Judge: Hon.
Smith County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
Peggy J. Skaggs v. Preferred Risk Mutual Insurance Company
03S01-9603-CV-00029
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The employer's insurer contends the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that the employee's fatal heart attack arose out of his employment. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. The claimant, Peggy Skaggs, is the widow of Charles R. Skaggs, deceased. At the time of his death, Mr. Skaggs was employed by the First Baptist Church of Morristown as Maintenance Supervisor. On August 8, 1994, following several hours of manual labor at the church, he developed severe neck pain and numbness and tingling in his hands and arms. Mrs. Skaggs, also a church employee, called an ambulance. He was taken to Ft. Sanders Hospital, where he died on August 1, 1994. According to the Death Certificate, death was caused by (1) heart attack, (2) coronary artery disease and (3) sudden cardiac death. The cause of the heart attack was confirmed by a medical doctor, who testified by deposition, "I believe the activity (he) engaged (in) may indeed have precipitated the onset of his myocardial infarction." The doctor conceded on cross-examination that undiagnosed pre-existing coronary artery disease may have been a contributing cause. The trial judge found the employee's heart attack to have been caused by physical exertion at work, thus compensable. Appellate review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings of fact, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(2). A heart attack is compensable, as an accidental injury, if it can be shown by competent evidence that the attack was precipitated by physical exertion or stress at work. Downen v. Allstate Ins. Co., 811 S.W.2d 523 (Tenn. 1991). The key, it has been held, to the recovery or denial of benefits is whether the heart attack is precipitated by the physical activity and exertion of the employee's work. Wingert v. Government of Sumner County, 98 S.W.2d 921 (Tenn. 1995). Moreover, an employee's death or disability resulting from a heart attack is causally related to his employment and therefore compensable, 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Ben K. Wexler,
Hamblen County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
James W. Smith v. Wilson County Concrete Co., et al.
01S01-9604-CR-00073
Authoring Judge: William S. Russell, Retired Judge
Originating Judge: Hon.
Smith County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
Ronnie Settles v. Sharps Mill Forest Products Inc. and Old Republic Insurance Company
02S01-9607-CV-00069
This worker's compensation appeal has been referred to the special worker's compensation appeals panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court awarded the plaintiff a permanent partial disability of ten (1%) percent to the body as a whole and found his proper compensation rate to be $366.68. Defendants have appealed, alleging that plaintiff did not prove that his facial disfigurement materially affected his employability, and that the trial court erred in setting the compensation rate at $366.68.
Authoring Judge: Cornelia A. Clark, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. C. Creed Mcginley
Hardin County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
Alan Lee Pressley v. United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co.
03S01-9606-CH-00058
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer's insurer contends the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that the employee has suffered an injury arising out of the employment. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. The employee or claimant, Pressley, was thirty-eight years old at the time of the trial. He has an eighth grade education, but had to repeat the second, fifth and seventh grades. He has worked as a bag boy and service station attendant. He began working as a mechanic for The Auto Place in 1988. On the afternoon of October 4, 1994, he was attempting to install a gasoline tank on a vehicle when his back made a popping noise and he felt low back pain. Later the same day, he reported to the emergency room at Harriman City Hospital. The history recorded by the admitting clerk reflects the claimant had been suffering back pain for about a year, but the claimant's wife testified at trial that she told the clerk about the injury that had occurred at work the same day. The claimant did not return to work the next day because of back pain. Four days later, the claimant reported to the emergency room at Oak Ridge Methodist Medical Center. The clerk's notes at this hospital indicate the pain began five days earlier as the claimant was getting out of bed, although the claimant's live testimony is that he explained to the person taking his history about the injury at work. He was thereafter treated by Dr. Hardigree, who released him to return to work after a conservative treatment and a short period of disability. 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Frank V. Williams, III,
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
Darin Potts v. Beaman Bottling Co., et al.
01S01-9605-CH-00108
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial judge found the plaintiff was 3% permanently partially disabled as a result of a work-related injury occurring on March 4, 1994. The trial court ordered the payment of temporary total disability benefits from May 23, 1994 through July 5, 1994. The trial court held that plaintiff was not entitled to reimbursement for unauthorized medical expenses. Appellant challenges the award of permanent partial disability benefits and temporary total disability benefits. Appellee challenges the trial court's refusal to allow reimbursement for unauthorized medical expenses. We affirm the trial court's judgment. Plaintiff, 3 at the time of trial, has a tenth-grade education. He has worked mostly in construction and as a sales clerk in retail and convenience stores. On March 4, 1994, he felt pain in his right shoulder as he was lifting cases of three-liter Pepsi bottles. He told his supervisor, who told him to go to the hospital if he needed to do so. He went to Baptist Convenient Care the next morning, and they referred him to Dr. Robert Stein, an orthopedic surgeon. Plaintiff worked sporadically for defendant on light-duty tasks until June 27, 1994, when Dr. Stein released him to full duty. He worked for a portion of one day at full duty and then voluntarily quit working for defendant. Plaintiff began working for Burlington Coat Factory in June 1994. At trial, plaintiff testified that he has constant pain and limited range of motion in his shoulders and neck. The employer put on various witnesses who testified to events which raised doubts as to the plaintiff's honesty in general, in a previous workers' compensation claim, and in this particular workers' compensation claim. The parties submitted the deposition testimony of four physicians. 2
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Originating Judge: Hon. Irvin H. Kilcrease, Jr.,
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
Darin Potts v. Beaman Bottling Co., et al.
01S01-9605-CH-00108
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial judge found the plaintiff was 3% permanently partially disabled as a result of a work-related injury occurring on March 4, 1994. The trial court ordered the payment of temporary total disability benefits from May 23, 1994 through July 5, 1994. The trial court held that plaintiff was not entitled to reimbursement for unauthorized medical expenses. Appellant challenges the award of permanent partial disability benefits and temporary total disability benefits. Appellee challenges the trial court's refusal to allow reimbursement for unauthorized medical expenses. We affirm the trial court's judgment. Plaintiff, 3 at the time of trial, has a tenth-grade education. He has worked mostly in construction and as a sales clerk in retail and convenience stores. On March 4, 1994, he felt pain in his right shoulder as he was lifting cases of three-liter Pepsi bottles. He told his supervisor, who told him to go to the hospital if he needed to do so. He went to Baptist Convenient Care the next morning, and they referred him to Dr. Robert Stein, an orthopedic surgeon. Plaintiff worked sporadically for defendant on light-duty tasks until June 27, 1994, when Dr. Stein released him to full duty. He worked for a portion of one day at full duty and then voluntarily quit working for defendant. Plaintiff began working for Burlington Coat Factory in June 1994. At trial, plaintiff testified that he has constant pain and limited range of motion in his shoulders and neck. The employer put on various witnesses who testified to events which raised doubts as to the plaintiff's honesty in general, in a previous workers' compensation claim, and in this particular workers' compensation claim. The parties submitted the deposition testimony of four physicians. 2
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Originating Judge: Hon. Irvin H. Kilcrease, Jr.,
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
Thomas R. Murrah v. Aetna Life and Casualty
02S01-9607-CV-00065
This worker's compensation appeal has been referred to the special worker's compensation appeals panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _50-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Authoring Judge: Cornelia A. Clark, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. George H. Brown, Jr.
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 02/21/97
William Jerry Flippin, Jr., v. A. O. Smith Automotive Products Company
02S01-9601-CH-00089

This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers'Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 50-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer questions the award of permanent partial disability benefits as being excessive and contends the award should be to the first phalange of the thumb rather than to the thumb. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be modified.

Authoring Judge: Special Judge Joe C. Loser, Jr.
Originating Judge: Chancellor Joe C. Morris
Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 02/16/97
Alma J. Milam v. Mci Telecommunications Corp., et al
02S01-9604-CH-00040
This case is before the Court upon the entire record, including the order of referral to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel, and the Panel's Memorandum Opinion setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law, which are incorporated herein by reference.
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Originating Judge: Hon. D. J. Alissandratos,
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 02/10/97
Carmella Mccadams v. Henry County Board of Education
02S01-9606-CV-00055
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The issue in this appeal is whether the evidence preponderates against the trial court's award of permanent disability benefits for a claimed back injury. This tribunal has concluded the judgment should be reversed for insufficient evidence of permanency. Because we do not reach a second issue, involving the method by which the employee's average weekly wage is determined, that issue is pretermitted. At the time of the trial, the employee or claimant, McCadams, was thirty-six years old, with a twelfth grade education and 8 hours of training in cosmetology. Her work history includes sewing shoes at Brown Shoe, sewing clothes at HIS, baby sitting at home, cleaning houses, working at a florist and working in the cafeteria at Henry County High School. She began working for the employer, Henry County Board of Education, in March of 1993, as a substitute cook. On November 18th of the same year, while standing on a ladder to reach vents she was cleaning, she lost then quickly regained her balance. When she did, she felt pain in her neck and back. She did not fall. She finished working that day and, except for the following day when she worked only three hours and twenty-five minutes, worked regularly until December 6th of the same year. She has voluntarily quit working. On December 3rd and 13th, she sought treatment from Dr. Walter Griffey for pain in her back and neck and a funny feeling in both feet. In January of 1994, she sought treatment from Dr. Carl W. Huff, who diagnosed neck pain without objective findings, back pain without objective findings and symptom magnification syndrome. Dr. Huff prescribed return to work without limitations and with no permanent impairment. She has been also seen by three neurosurgeons, none of whom found evidence of injury, other than preexisting degenerative disc disease. One of them described the claimant as a malingerer. Her husband called the doctor a quack. The claimant was finally referred to a Dr. Mark Crawford, whose specialty and qualifications are not in the record. Dr. Crawford wrote, " (B)ased on the AMA Guidelines to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 4th Edition and based on moderate degenerative disc disease of L4 and L5 with residuals, she would have an impairment of 8% of the whole person. This degenerative disc disease was an asymptomatic pre-existing condition brought into disabling reality by her work related injury." None of the other medical experts assigned any permanent impairment. 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Julian P. Guinn,
Henry County Workers Compensation Panel 02/10/97
Jessie James Jones, Jr. v. Cigna Insurance Companies
02S01-9601-CH-00041
This workers' compensation app eal has been referred to the Special W ork ers ' C om pe ns atio n A pp ea ls P an el of the Su pre m e C ou rt in acc ord an ce with Te nn . Co de An n. _ 5 -6- 22 5(e )(3 ) fo r he arin g a nd rep orting of find ings of fa ct an d co nc lusio ns of law . The p lainti ff, Je ss e J am es Jo ne s J r., u nd erw en t co m pe ns ab le lumbar disc h ern iatio n a nd surgery for which he entered into a settlement agre em ent w ith his em ployer for p aym en t of permanent partial disa bility be ne fits of 4 % to the bo dy as a w ho le in September, 19, 1992. On May 18, 1992, Plaintiff was injured in a second industrial accident and suffered a second lumbar disc herniatio n for which he underwent a sec on d lam inec tom y. The plaintiff recovered a judgment for the second injury against Cigna Insurance Company in which he was aw ard ed fur the r w ork ers ' co m pe ns atio n b enefits based on the find ing that he suffered 55% perm ane nt partial disab ility to the bo dy as a whole. On Se pte m be r 2 , 19 95 , C ign a file d a m otio n fo r re du ctio n o f aw ard pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. _ 56-6-231 seeking a reduction of the pe rm an en t disa bility aw ard for the sec on d inju ry. Th e T rial Co urt denied Cigna's motion for reduction of award and this appeal results. In its on ly issue, Cigna says that evidence preponderates against the Tr ial C ou rt's d en ial o f its m otio n to te rm ina te its ob liga tion for payment of p erm an en t disa bility be ne fits as of N ov em be r 7, 1 99 5. 2
Authoring Judge: F. Lloyd Tatum, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Honora Ble Joe C.
Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 02/10/97
Ronald L. Shook v. Yates Construction Co., Inc., et al.
03S01-9602-CV-00011
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employee or claimant, Shook, contends the evidence preponderate against the trial judge's finding that his psychological condition did not arise out of his employment. The panel has concluded that the judgment should be affirmed. The claimant has a long history of mental illness, including severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug and alcohol abuse. He has been hospitalized and received out-patient care since his discharge from military
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Harold Wimberley,
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 01/27/97
Jerry T. Matheny v. Insurance Co. of North America
02S01-9604-CH-00034
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court inaccordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The issue in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in not enlarging an award, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6- 241(a)(2). As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. The injury in question occurred on September 5, 1992 to the claimant's neck. The claimant was treated by a physician who assigned a permanent impairment rating of eight percent to the body. The claimant returned to work at a wage equal to or greater than the wage he was receiving at the time of the injury and was awarded permanent partial disability benefits on the basis of two and one-half times the impairment rating, or twenty percent to the body as a whole, paid in a lump sum. The award was made on March 22, 1994. On May 9, 1994, the claimant suffered another injury to his neck at work. From that injury, superimposed upon two previous injuries, including the one in question, he was found to be one hundred percent permanently disabled and awarded benefits accordingly. Because of the disability resulting from the most recent injury, the claimant is unable to return to work. The claimant contends he is therefore entitled to have the previous award enlarged. For injuries arising after August 1, 1992, by Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-241(a)(1), in cases where an injured worker is entitled to permanent partial disability benefits to the body as a whole and the pre-injury employer returns the employee to employment at a wage equal to or greater than the wage the employee was receiving at the time of the injury, the maximum permanent partial disability award the employee may receive istwo and one-half times the medical impairment rating. By Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6- 241(a)(2), if the injured worker thereafter loses his or her pre-injury employment, the court may, upon proper application made within one year of the employee's loss of employment, and if such loss of employment is within four hundred weeks of the day the employee returned to work, enlarge the award to a maximum of six times such impairment rating, allowing the employer credit for permanent partial disability benefits already paid for the injury. The only reasonable interpretation of subsection (2) is that if the injured worker's later loss of employment is causally related to the injury for which an award has been made, the trial judge has the discretion to enlarge the award, if the application is timely made. Any other interpretation would be inconsistent with the long standing rule that an employer takes the employee as 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. J. Steven Stafford,
Lake County Workers Compensation Panel 01/27/97
Clifford J. Kapp v. Transway, Inc.
02S01-9606-CV-00054
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court inaccordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer contends the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that the employee suffered a permanent injury arising out of the employment. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the award of permanent disability benefits should be reversed. The employee or claimant, Kapp, was employed by the employer, Transway, on September 29, 1994 as a truck driver. On that day, the claimant and a co-worker were unloading a tub from a trailer when the co-worker dropped his end, causing the claimant to fall to the floor. He received emergency care at a nearby hospital and was released the same day. Since that time, he has seen numerous doctors. Dr. Michael Smelser, a general practitioner,treated the claimant for pain on three occasions. He performed a neurological examination, which was normal. We find in the record no evidence that Dr. Smelser found any permanent injury or impairment. Dr. Joseph P. Rowland, a neurosurgeon, saw the claimant three or four times. Dr. Rowland conducted a thorough neurological examination and ordered scientific tests, the results of which were normal. Dr. Mark S. Harriman, an orthopedic surgeon, was unable to find any objective evidence of injury. He found no evidence of permanent medical impairment. Dr. Roy Page examined the claimant and found no abnormality. Dr. James H. Owens conducted an extensive examination and found no basis for the claimant's complaint of pain. The only doctor who found any permanent impairment was Dr. Stephen L. Gipson, a pain management doctor. On the basis of complaints of chronic back pain, this doctor assigned a permanent impairment rating of eleven percent to the whole body. All of the medical evidence was by deposition or written reports. The claimant has not returned to work. 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. C. Creed Mcginley,
Decatur County Workers Compensation Panel 01/24/97
Richard D. Roberts v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
02S01-9607-CV-00066
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The employer, Goodyear, contends the evidence preponderates against the trial court's findings that (1) the employee or claimant, Roberts, did not knowingly and willfully misrepresent his physical condition in an employment application, (2) the claimant suffered a compensable injury by accident and (3) the claimant retains a twenty percent permanent partial disability of twenty percent to the body as a whole. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. From 197 until April, 1988, the claimant was employed by another employer, Carborundum, as an electrician. In April, 1988, Carborundum ceased its operations. The out-of-work claimant applied to Goodyear for a job and, in March of 1989, was called to Goodyear regarding available jobs in its production department. After an interview, he was hired subject to a medical evaluation. He completed a medical evaluation form, including the medical history portion, then was examined by a physician, in accordance with the employer's standard practice. The claimant was approved for hiring on March 13, 1989. In completing the personal medical history portion of the medical evaluation form, the claimant checked "no" in response to the question which asked whether he had any "Disorder of the musculo-skeletal system -- back trouble, knee trouble, painful or swollen joints, bone fracture, gout, arthritis, amputations, etc.?" In response to another question, however, he noted a previous broken hip and repair to his urethra during a previous injury at Carborundum, for which he asserted a claim for workers' compensation benefits in 1976. After that injury and surgery, the claimant complained from time to time about low back pain. In the pre-employment physical examination, the physician reviewed the claimant's personal medical history and questioned him regarding the broken hip and urethra repair, but did not ask about any back pain associated with the injury. None was related. The physician then conducted a physical examination of the claimant and approved him for work with no restrictions. The claimant was assigned to the production department. On April 7, 1989, while at work and changing a roll weighing approximately 12 pounds, the claimant injured his back. The injury was diagnosed as a ruptured disc and treated with open surgery. The operating surgeon assigned an eleven percent permanent whole person impairment, from appropriate guidelines. 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. W. Michael Maloan,
Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 01/23/97
Vickie L. Parks v. Brother Industries, USA, Inc.
02S01-9605-CH-00046
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the injured employee or claimant, Parks, contends the evidence preponderates against the trial court's award of permanent partial disability benefits based on fifteen percent to the right arm for her repetitive trauma injury, and in favor of one based on seventy-five percent to the right arm. The panel has concluded that the judgment of the trial court should be affirmed. The claimant is forty-one years old and has a tenth grade education and a General Education Diploma. She gradually developed right carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive use of her right hand and wrist in a typewriter production line. After being treated or examined by six different doctors, none of whom satisfactorily diagnosed and treated her condition, she saw Dr. James T. Galyon, who surgically repaired her right wrist, returned her to work after a period of recovery, and estimated her permanent impairment at five percent to the right hand and wrist or four percent to the right upper extremity. The claimant returned to work for the employer for a year and a half, but has since quit because of another injury to another member. She later saw Dr. Joseph Boals for an evaluation. Dr. Boals assigned a permanent impairment rating of ten percent to the right upper extremity and restricted her from any work which would require repetitive use of or heavy lifting with the right arm, but otherwise encouraged her to work. The trial court found fifteen percent permanent partial disability to the right arm. Appellate review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings of the trial court, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(2). Once the causation and permanency of an injury have been established by expert testimony, the trial judge may consider many pertinent factors, including age, job skills, education, training, duration of disability and job opportunities for the disabled, in addition to anatomical impairment, for the purpose of evaluating the extent of a claimant's permanent disability. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-241(a)(2). From our independent examination of the record and a consideration of those factors, to the extent they were established by the proof at trial, we do not find the evidence to preponderate against the findings of the trial judge. 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Neal Small,
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 01/23/97
Rhonda May v. Great Central Insurance Company
02S01-9606-CV-00060
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court inaccordance with Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer's insurer contends the award of permanent partial disability benefits based on forty percent to the body as a whole is excessive. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. The employee or claimant, May, is thirty years old and has a tenth grade education. She has no vocational training. She has worked in garment production and as a cashier and stocker for Save-A-Lot, the employer. On March 3, 1994, she felt a sharp pain in her lower back while lifting a pallet of flour at work. She has seen several doctors and received conservative care. Diagnostic tests revealed a herniated disc in her lower back, superimposed on pre-existing degenerative lumbosacral joint disease. She is overweight and has carpal tunnel syndrome, also pre-existing. One of the doctors assigned her a wholeperson permanent medical impairment rating of ten percent, using appropriate guidelines. The claimant returned to work on September 19, 1994 at the same wage she was receiving before the injury, but was medically restricted from lifting anything weighing more than twenty pounds, from standing more than forty-five minutes to one hour without a five to ten minute break, or from sitting more than forty-five minutes to one hour without a five to ten minute break. She was assigned to the meat department, where her work required her to exceed those limitations. She quit on October 3, 1994. She is presently working as a cashier for another food store, at a lower wage. The trial court awarded permanent partial disability benefits based on forty percent to the body as a whole. Appellate review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness, unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise. Tenn. Code Ann. section 5-6- 225(e)(2). Where the trial judge has seen and heard the witnesses, especially if issues of credibility and weight to be given oral testimony are involved, considerable deference must be accorded those circumstances on review. Humphrey v. David Witherspoon, Inc., 734 S.W.2d 315 (Tenn. 1987). For injuries arising after August 1, 1992, in cases where an injured worker is entitled to permanent partial disability benefits to the body as a whole and the pre-injury employer returns the employee to employment at a wage 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Rhonda May,
Benton County Workers Compensation Panel 01/23/97
Janet Carter v. Phoenix Restaurant Group of Tennessee, Inc., et al.
03S01-9602-CH-00013
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special W orkers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The plaintiff was seriously injured in a traffic crash on September 11, 1991. She settled her tort claim and proceeded to trial of this workers' compensation case which resulted in a finding that the `special errand' exception was applicable and that as a result of the accident and injuries she was 6 percent partially, permanently disabled and thus entitled to $183.34 per week during 24 weeks, temporary total benefits during 156 weeks, and medical expenses of $83,245.91. In accordance with TENN. CODE ANN. _5-6-112(c), the defendant was credited with $1,., the amount of the tort settlement, which the plaintiff insists was only partially subrogable. Both parties appeal. The employer insists that because the traffic crash was not job-related, the plaintiff failed to prove her case. The plaintiff insists that because the employer did not recognize the compensability of her claim, and because she was not made whole by the third-party settlement, the full amount thereof should not have been subrogable. The plaintiff further insists that her attorney should have been awarded a fee "out of the third-party settlement fund." She also presents for review the issues of whether a finding of 6 percent permanent partial disability is adequate, and whether certain discretionary costs should have been allowed. I The facts are not in material dispute. The plaintiff, age 31, completed the eighth grade. She had worked in restaurants most of her adult life, and on July 1, 1991 was employed by Wendy's as an assistant manager trainee assigned to work at the North Roan location in Johnson City after a six-week stint in Kingsport. On September 1, 1991, a supervisor came to the North Roan location and announced that on the following day in Kingsport all of the North Roan employees, including the plaintiff, would be given a test which was mandatory. The plaintiff advised her supervisor that September 11 was her day off; the supervisor replied that this did not matter, "that everybody had to be there and would be paid for their time there." 2
Authoring Judge: William H. Inman, Senior Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Richard E. Ladd
Carter County Workers Compensation Panel 01/23/97
Janice Bruce v. Tecumseh Products Company
02S01-9604-CV-00042
This workers' compensation appeal has b een referred to the Special W ork ers ' C om pe ns atio n A pp ea ls Panel of the Supreme Co urt in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and rep orting of find ings of fa ct an d co nc lusio ns of law . This is an ap pe al by the de fen da nt/e m ploy er, Tec umseh Products Company, from a judgment in fav or o f th e p lain tiff/a pp elle e, Janice Bruce, awarding workers' compensation benefits based on 45% permanent partial disability to the body as a wh ole. The judgment also held the d efen da nt res po nsib le for m edical expenses incurred by plain tiff for the care and treatment provided by Dr. Terry O. Harrison an d D r. Ra y W . He ster, p hys ician s no t sele cted by th e d efe nd an t. The defendant presents three issues for review: 1. Did the trial co urt e rr in find ing th at th e lim itation of two and one-half (2-1/2) times the ana tomical rating set out in T. C .A . S ec tion 5 -6- 24 1(a )(1 ) did no t ap ply to th is cause? 2. Does the ev ide nc e p rep on de rat e a ga in s t the trial co urt's findin g tha t Plain tiff susta ined a forty-five (45% ) percent pe rm an en t pa rtial disa bility to the body as a whole? 3. Did the tria l cou rt err in finding that Tecumseh should be resp on sible fo r the m ed ical ex pe nse s incu rred b y Pla intiff for the care and treatm ent pro vided by D r. Terry O . Ha rrison an d D r. Ra y W . He ster? Be fore ad dre ssin g th e iss ue s, w e will discuss the evidence found in the record. The plain tiff is a lady th irty-one yea rs o f ag e a t th e tim e o f tria l. 2
Authoring Judge: F. Lloyd Tatum, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Creed Mcginley,
Henry County Workers Compensation Panel 01/23/97
Randy Wilson v. Eaton Corporation
01S01-9605-CH-00107
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial judge awarded the plaintiff 5% permanent partial disability to the right hand. He refused to award temporary total disability benefits because plaintiff had lost no wages during his period of temporary total disability. Appellant challenges the trial court's findings that plaintiff sustained a work- related injury by accident to his right thumb in August 1992, that plaintiff gave notice of such an injury and that this claim is not barred by the statute of limitations. Appellee challenges the trial court's refusal to award temporary total disability benefits. Appellee also argues that the appellant should be estopped from pleading the affirmative defenses relied upon for failure to show proper and timely filing of the required notice of controversy. We affirm the trial court's judgment. Plaintiff, 4 at the time of trial, has his high school diploma. He has worked primarily in factories; he also worked as a patrolman for two-and-a-half years. He has worked for the appellant since 1984. He now works as a gear lab technician, which requires lifting and grasping of parts ranging from 3 to 4 pounds apiece. In August 1992 he developed a knot on the outside of his thumb and began having stiffness and pain in his thumb and difficulty grasping objects. A few weeks later, a part overturned in his hand and "snapped [his] thumb out." Plaintiff testified that he reported his injury the next day, August 21, 1992, to the plant nurse. She asked him if he had ever hurt his thumb before, and he told her the only time he had ever hurt it before would have been in 1988 when he had fallen. He testified that the nurse told him that she thought his problem with his thumb had something to do with his 1988 fall. In the 1988 fall, plaintiff hit his left hand against a railing and strained three of his fingers on his left hand; he also jammed the thumb on his right hand, but there is no record of a complaint about the 2
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Originating Judge: Hon. Tyrus H. Cobb,
Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 01/17/97
Larry R. Williams v. Scott Bolt & Screw Co., et al.
01S01-9604-CH-00077
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The plaintiff filed suit alleging that a brown recluse spider bit him while he was at work on April 15, 1993. The trial court denied his claim. Because the evidence does not support the plaintiff's claim, the trial court decision is affirmed. The plaintiff testified that his left leg started itching at work at about 2: p.m. on April 15 or maybe April 19, he is not sure which. At any rate, in his deposition the plaintiff testified that the next thing he noticed was a sore knee the following morning, but he did not pay much attention to it. He testified differently at trial. The plaintiff and his live-in girlfriend both testified they saw a red mark on his knee when he undressed after work the afternoon the itching stared. In any event, the pain started the next morning. The plaintiff went to work and worked almost all day. The pain got bad toward quitting time, and the employer encouraged the plaintiff to see a doctor. He did, and eventually came under the care of two Vanderbilt doctors, Phillip Wolinsky, an orthopedic surgeon, and Bruce Shack, a plastic surgeon. Neither of them know whether a brown recluse spider bite caused the plaintiff's wound. But it was serious whatever caused it, and the plaintiff suffers permanent impairment as a result of it. The doctors' testimony contradicts the plaintiff's claim that a brown recluse spider bit him at work. Dr. Wolinsky does not know much about brown recluse spider bites, and what little he does know and shared in his deposition does not support the plaintiff's claim. According to Wolinsky, the literature referred to by the plaintiff's counsel indicates that while a bite may not cause any immediate pain, some localized pain develops within an hour or so. -2-
Authoring Judge: Robert S. Brandt, Senior Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Ellen Hobbs Lyle,
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 01/17/97