Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Workers' Compensation Opinions

Format: 07/06/2020
Format: 07/06/2020
Joe Rines v. Mahle, Inc. and Royal Insurance Company
03S01-9509-CV-00101
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. This appeal results from the refusal of the trial court to modify a judgment entered April 2, 1993 that the employee sustained no permanent disability as a result of a job-related injury in 199 but was entitled to future medical expenses associated with any spinal fusion he elected to undergo. The petition to modify was filed November 23, 1994. The plaintiff alleged that he "has increased disability from surgery performed by Dr. Wallace over and above that which he had when this matter was previously heard." The defendants [hereafter "employer"] moved to dismiss, alleging that the "Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the Petition filed on behalf of the plaintiff or to award him any relief and, further, that neither the provisions of T.C.A. _ 5-6-231 nor of Rule 6.2, TENN. R. CIV. P., are applicable herein." Thereafter, the plaintiff announced that he was relying exclusively upon T.C.A. _ 5-6-231, which provides: 5-6-231. Lump payments final -- Modification of periodic payments for more than six months. -- All amounts paid by employer and received by the employee or the employee's dependents, by lump sum payments, shall be final, but the amount of any award payable periodically for more than six (6) months may be modified as follows: (1) At any time by agreement of the parties and approval by the court; or (2) If the parties cannot agree, then at any time after six (6) months from the date of the award an application may be made to the courts by either party, on the ground of increase or decrease of incapacity due solely to the injury. In such cases, the same procedure shall be followed as in _ 5-6-225 in case of a disputed claim for compensation. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that since there was no "award payable periodically for more than six (6) months" the statute was inapplicable. On appeal the plaintiff argues that the award of future medical expenses qualifies as an "award payable periodically" within the purview of the statute, as contrasted to the argument of the employer that "an award payable periodically"
Authoring Judge: William H. Inman, Senior Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. William L. Jenkins
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 11/20/96
Kevin G. Mckenzie v. Blount Memorial Hospital, Inc., Royal Insurance Company and Tha Workers' Compensation Group
03S01-9603-CV-00028
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. Plaintiff, Kevin G. McKenzie, has appealed from the action of the trial court in dismissing his claim by sustaining a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants, Blount Memorial Hospital, Inc., and THA Workers' Compensation Group. The circuit judge ruled the claim was barred by reason of the expiration of the one year statute of limitations. The complaint was filed on November 4, 1994, alleging plaintiff had sustained an injury on September 13, 1993, and on May 7, 1994. The hospital was provided insurance coverage by THA Workers' Compensation Group to December 31, 1993, and Royal Insurance Company for the period in question during 1994. The hospital and THA Group filed the motion for summary judgment contending any claim for the September, 1993, injury was barred. The motion is supported by two affidavits and Plaintiff's Answers To Interrogatories. The affidavit of Joe B. Hill, Jr., the Director of Human Resources, recites plaintiff originally injured himself during January, 1993; he reported on September 13, 1993, he had experienced a recurrence of pain from the injury and he received two sessions of therapy; the last medical treatment for the September 13, 1993, work-related aggravation of his pre-existing condition was on September 15, 1993; that on May 7, 1994, he reported to their emergency room requesting treatment; and the hospital did not make any voluntary payments to any health care providers nor was plaintiff billed for any treatment by the hospital. The other affidavit was executed by Mary Jane Johnson, a family nurse- practitioner of the hospital. This document indicates she saw plaintiff during January, 1993, for evaluation of a neck and shoulder injury which plaintiff said he had sustained a few days earlier; on September 13, 1993, he reported he had re- injured his neck and shoulder; he was referred to a medical group where he was seen the same day but he did not return for a follow-up appointment on October 4, -2-
Authoring Judge: Roger E. Thayer, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. W. Dale Young,
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 11/20/96
Terry Hambrick v. Vecellio & Grogan, Inc.
03S01-9603-CH-00030
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 drove a heavy truck for the defendant's construction firm. When asked to tell the Court "what happened when you got hurt," he replied: Well I was backing up to get loaded and the loader operator picked one, a big old rock up and he went to put it in the bed of the truck and when he did, he started to let it down and the rock just come out all at once. And when it did, it just rattled, you know, just shook the truck around and around. The accident occurred August 4, 1993. He was seen by Dr. Judson McGowan, an orthopedic specialist, on August 1, 1993, complaining of neck and thoracic spine pain. His condition was diagnosed as acute cervical lumbar strain which was treated conservatively over many months involving sophisticated testing procedures and referrals to specialists in other disciplines, some of whom believed the plaintiff had a psychological overlay with magnification of symptoms. Dr. McGowan testified that "this patient is heading toward the road of a chronic pain syndrome," that he had a five to ten percent impairment, and that he was able to return to lighter work. Dr. Stephen Kimbrough, a neurologist, saw the plaintiff on February 9, 1993, for the evaluation of neck and arm pain. He found no nerve involvement and little or no pathology. He believed that the plaintiff had some pain but "felt that it was somewhat exaggerated and there was some overlay to the pain as well." Like Dr. McGowan, he thought the plaintiff was likely a candidate for chronic pain syndrome, and that he exaggerated his symptomatology. He expressed no opinion about impairment, but felt that he could return to work. Dr. Paul Brown, a specialist in internal medicine and cardiology, testified that he had treated the plaintiff for a number of years for various illnesses, one of which was hypertension which he attributed in part to pain, but he declined to reference the hypertension to the accident and expressed no opinion about impairment. 2
Authoring Judge: William H. Inman, Senior Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Thomas J. Seeley, Jr.
Unicoi County Workers Compensation Panel 11/20/96
Sidney Eugene Abbott and Willie Bean v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
02S01-9510-CV-00097
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 consolidated appeal, the employees or claimants, Abbott and Bean, contend the evidence preponderates against the trial judge's finding that they have not suffered a compensable occupational disease. The panel finds the judgment should be affirmed. Bean worked for Firestone for 39 years as a janitor, mold cleaner and production worker. Abbott worked for Firestone for 15 years as a maintenance man. Both were exposed to dust and fumes from chemicals used in the manufacturing of tires and other rubber products. Before the plant closed in 1983, both men began to experience difficulty breathing. Both are, or were during their years of work for the employer, heavy smokers. They developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The diagnoses were first made in 1989 and 199, by Dr. Richard Wunderink, a physician board certified in both pulmonary and critical care medicine. The doctor also diagnosed Abbott with asbestosis and asbestos related pleural plaques. In his testimony, Dr. Wunderink opined that the exposure at Firestone contributed to and aggravated the COPD and that the asbestosis and asbestos related pleural plaques were directly related to exposure to asbestos. The doctor diagnosed Bean as having asbestosis and asbestos related pleural plaques, in addition to COPD. He also opined that Bean's asbestosis and pleural plaques were "caused by his occupational exposure to asbestos." The COPD was aggravated by exposure to dust at work. Dr. Paul Wheeler, a staff radiologist and chief of the pneumoconiosis section at Johns Hopkins, studied the x-rays of both claimants and opined in his testimony that neither claimant showed evidence of occupational disease related to exposure to asbestos. At the suggestion of Dr. Wheeler, the trial judge ordered CT scans, the results of which were read by separate doctors, one chosen by the claimants and one chosen by the defendants. Both found the claimants lungs to be normal, except that Bean apparently suffered from emphysema. The trial judge found that the evidence failed to establish the elements necessary for an award of workers' compensation benefits for an occupational disease. 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). Where the trial judge has seen and heard the witnesses, especially with issues of credibility, where weight to be given oral testimony are 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Janice Holder,
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 11/19/96
Mary Benson v. The Kroger Company and Cna Insurance Company
02S01-9601-CH-00002
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 and its insurer contend (1) the award of permanent disability benefits based on one hundred percent to both arms is excessive, (2) it was error to award certain medical expenses, (3) it was error to award discretionary costs, and (4) it was error to award judgment against both defendants. The employee contends by cross appeal (1) the trial court erred in limiting the recovery for permanent partial disability to four hundred weeks, (2) the trial court erred in its award of temporary total disability benefits, (3) the trial court erred in allowing the employer credit for temporary total disability benefits paid, and (4) the appeal is frivolous. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be affirmed. The employee or claimant, Benson, is 53 years old with a high school education and experience as a meat wrapper in grocery stores. She has no skills or training. She gradually developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome while so employed at Kroger. She had carpal tunnel surgery on her left arm in November of 1992 and returned to work at Kroger in January of 1993 as a meat wrapper. She continued to have problems with her hands and became disabled to perform her duties, which included heavy lifting and repetitive use of both hands in a cold environment. Medical benefits were discontinued in July of 1994. She retains a ten percent permanent impairment to her left arm and twenty percent impairment to her right arm, superimposed upon a pre-existing vascular disorder. As a result of the combination of the compensable injury and pre-existing condition, she is medically restricted from repetitive use of the hands, heavy lifting or working in a cold environment. The trial court awarded permanent partial benefits for four hundred weeks, based on one hundred percent permanent disability to both arms, medical expenses of two unauthorizedphysicians and futuremedical benefits. 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). Where the trial judge has seen and heard the witnesses, especially if issues of credibility are involved, considerable deference must be accorded those circumstances on review. Humphrey v. David Witherspoon, Inc., 734 S.W.2d 315 (Tenn. 1987). 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Neal Small,
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 11/18/96
Clint Evard v. Saturn Corporation
01S01-9601-CV-00019
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 claimant contends that the trail court erred by averaging two permanent partial disability rating for two scheduled members. Claimant also contends that the final anatomical impairment award was inadequate. The panel concludes that the methodology utilized by the trial court in arriving at the percentage of permanent partial disability was proper; however, the panel is of the opinion the final award was inadequate. In accordance with T.C.A. 56-225(e), the standard of review in this case is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of correctness of the findings. It is the claimant's burden to show by a preponderance that the evidence is otherwise. The claimant developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of his work at Saturn where his job involves repetitive grasping of small metal clips which are place on a car door as it passes along the assembly line. When he began installing around 6, clips/ day, his hands began to swell so severely that on one occasion he could not tell that he had cut his hand. Subsequently, he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel release surgery was performed on his right wrist. The claimant filed this workers compensation lawsuit on February 27, l995. At trial in l995, the trial court awarded the claimant a l% permanent partial disability to his right arm and a 5% permanent partial disability to his left arm which at his compensation rate of $382.79 per week amounts to $14,354.3. The percentage disabilities were established by one of the claimant's doctors, Dr. Gaw. The claimant argues that the trial court erred in assessing a percentage of disability to each arm separately under T.C.A. 5-6-27(3)(A)(ii)(m) rather than as one scheduled injury under T.C.A. 2
Authoring Judge: Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Jim T. Hamilton
Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 11/14/96
Mary L. Brents v. Batesville Casket Company, Inc. and Lumbermen's Mutual Company
01S01-9508-CV-00141
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeal Panel of the Supreme Court for hearing andreporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. See Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6- 225(e)(3)(199). Appellant Mary L. Brents presents the following issues for review: (1) whether the trial court erred in finding that attorneys' fees for both accrued and future benefits could not be paid solely from the future benefits award and (2) whether the trial court erred in reducing the amount of her weekly benefit payments by twenty percent, thereby reflecting the advance, lump-sum payment of attorneys' fees. After a review of the record, We affirm the judgment of the trial court. I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND On February 13, 1992, Appellant filed a workers' compensation action against Batesville Casket Company. On March 14, 1994, following a hearing, the trial court found that Appellant was due a fifty-five percent permanent partial disability award for a work-related injury that occurred in October of 1991. The trial court indicated that, had proper notice been given, Appellant would have also been due a fifteen percent permanent partial disability for a work-related injury that occurred in March of 1992. On February 9, 1995, this Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court regarding the October, 1991, injury and reversed the judgment of the trial court regarding the March 1992 injury, modifying Appellant's award to include the additional fifteen percent permanent partial disability. On March 13, 1995, Appellant received three checks pursuant to the decision of this Court. These checks represented (1) payment for all then- accrued and outstandingincome benefits, totaling $16, 211.13, (2) payment for attorneys' fees 2
Authoring Judge: Jerry L. Smith, Special Judg
Originating Judge: Hon. John W . Rollins, Judge
Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 11/14/96
Charles Tolan v. Ed Brown
03S01-9603-CH-00027
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 defendant-appellee, Brown, is a statutory or principal employer of the plaintiff- appellant or claimant. The panel concludes that the judgment should be affirmed. Brown is the owner of rental property, including the Guthrie Mini Warehouse in Cleveland. He is not a builder or general contractor. In the late spring of 1994, he contracted with Kevin Eason to replace the roof on the warehouse. Among those employed by or on behalf of Eason to do the work was Charles Tolan. By the terms of the contract, Brown paid Eason $5,. and furnished the material. There was no time limit on when the work was to be completed and Brown exercised no control over the work of Eason's employee's, including Tolan. Brown did not provide the tools for the work, except one ladder. At one point, it became apparent that the work was not being done properly, which Brown pointed out to Eason. Eason corrected the problem. On July 12, 1993, Tolan was injured when he fell from the roof of the warehouse. He has sued for workers' compensation benefits. After a trial on the merits, the chancellor found that Eason and some other defendants, but not Brown, were liable to the claimant for workers' 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Earl H. Henley,
Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 11/05/96
James Raymond Casey v. The Travelers Insurance Company
02S01-9605-CH-00047
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 (1) the award of permanent partial disability benefits is excessive, (2) the award of temporary total disability benefits is excessive and (3) the trial court erred in granting plaintiff's motion for discretionary costs. As discussed below, the panel concludes the judgment should be modified. The employee or claimant, Casey, is 29 years old and has a tenth grade education. His working experience consists of light to medium manual labor. On October 11, 1994, his right hand caught in some belts at work and was injured. He continued working for approximately one month. He was treated by an orthopedic surgeon beginning on December 22, 1994. The treating doctor diagnosed a rupture of the extensor tendon of the last joint of the claimant's right little finger, swelling of the PIP joint of the ring and middle fingers of the same hand and decreased range of hand motion, for all of which he prescribed a splint for the little finger and range of motion exercises for the hand. In time the swelling disappeared and he recovered full range of motion in the hand. He improved to the extent that he could have returned to work on January 13, 1995. The doctor assigned a permanent partial impairment rating of eight percent to the right little finger because the claimant "lacked about thirty degrees of extension of the DIP joint of the right little finger." The doctor's testimony also included the following questions and answers: Q. ... in your opinion, he did not sustain any permanent impairment with regard to his hand or to the arm? A. No, Ma'am. Q. Okay. In your opinion, ... would the plaintiff have necessarily had any problems in going back to work and using his hand? 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. George R. Ellis,
Crockett County Workers Compensation Panel 11/05/96
Hazel Maness Flatt v. The Insurance Mart, Inc.,
02S01-9601-CH-00007
This workers' compensation appeal was heard by the Special Workers' Compensation Panel in accordance with provisions of T.C.A. _ 5-6-225(e)(3). We have by this opinion reported our findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Supreme Court. Hazel Maness Flatt ("plaintiff") was employed by Gary Wright and his sister Nita Middleton to care for their mother, Lorene F. Wright, at her residence in Chester County. As part of her employment, plaintiff lived in Ms. Wright's home from Monday through Friday. Other sitters provided care for Ms. Wright on weekends. Plaintiff's job duties included fixing meals, cleaning the house, sweeping, vacuuming, washing clothes, taking Ms. Wright on errands, and generally just watching after her. On about October 5, 199, plaintiff injured her back while assisting Ms. Wright into plaintiff's car. The record reflects that Gary Wright served as president of The Insurance Mart, Inc. ("defendant"), a company engaged in the sale of automobile insurance in Nashville. Wright and his wife were the sole shareholders of the defendant company. His sister, Nita Middleton, was an employee of defendant. Plaintiff was paid her weekly checks from defendant's payroll for her services to Ms. Wright. Her W-2 Wage and Tax Statement for 199 listed defendant as her employer. However, defendant listed plaintiff regularly on its Non-Employee Compensation Report. For these apparent reasons, plaintiff filed suit against defendant in the Chancery Court of Chester County. Following a bench trial, the chancell or denied plaintiff's claim for workers' compensation benefits on the grounds that (1) plaintiff was a domestic servant and not an employee of defendant, and (2) that she was also an independent contractor. This appeal followed. 2
Authoring Judge: Hewitt P. Tomlin, Jr., Senior Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Joe C. Morris,
Chester County Workers Compensation Panel 11/01/96
Allen v. Jones
02S01-9512-CV-00127
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. James M. Tharpe
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 11/01/96
Brian Matthew Woosley v. Townsend Electric Company
02S01-9505-CH-00040
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. _ 5-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Our scope of review of findings of fact by the trial court 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. _ 5-6-22 5(e)(2). The sole question raised on appeal is whether the evidence preponderates against the chancellor's holding that the employee's injury arose out of the course and scope of his employment. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the trial court. The plaintiff, Brian M. Woosley ("Woosley"), was employed as an electrician's he lper for To wnsend Electric. Du ring the sev eral month s of his employment with Townsend, he worked at a series of job sites. The method by which he would arrive at the site varied. For two of the jobs, he met the foreman at the Townsend "shop"on the first day of the job; thereafter he drove his own vehicle to the job site. At a third job location, he met the foreman at the Townsend shop and rode with him to the job site. While at the shop, he sometimes loaded material for use on the job. At a fourth site, the foreman drove to Woos ley's home an d transporte d him to the job. Woo sley was nev er paid until he arrived at the job site and he was never reimbursed for transportation expenses when he drove his own vehicle. On July 13, 1992, Woosley was working at a fifth job in Brownsville when he was injured en route to the job site. For the two weeks prior to his injury, he met Harold Matlock ("Matlock"), the job foreman, at the shop each day and the two went to the Brownsville job together. While working in Brownsville, Woosley was not required to pick up or load materials; he received no instructions 2
Authoring Judge: Janice M. Holder, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Joe C. Mo Rris
Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/96
Barbara Wallace v. Cadillac Curtain Company
02S01-9510-CH-00099
This worker's compensationappeal 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. Trial in this matter was conducted February 9, 1995. On May 22, 1995, the Chancellor entered a final judgment denying compensation to plaintiff and dismissing her lawsuit.
Authoring Judge: Cornelia A. Clark, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. John Hill Chisholm
Tipton County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/96
Charles Leroy Stafford v. Mid-America Corporation and Larry Brinton, Jr.
03S01-9512-CH-00132
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 presented by this appeal involves the extent of the claimant's permanent disability. The panel concludes thejudgment should be modified as provided below. The employee or claimant, Stafford, is forty-eight with a ninth grade education. On December 23, 1993, he suffered a compensable injury to his neck and arm, for which he received medical treatment and lost time from work. The treating physician assigned a permanent impairment rating of 3% to the whole body and released him to return to work in August of 1994 with no restrictions. From a previous injury, the claimant had received an award based on ninety-five percent to the body as a whole. The chancellor awarded permanent partial disability benefits on the basis of five percent to the body as a whole, reasoning that the claimant had not yet become rehabilitated from his previous injury. Appellate review is de novo upon the record of the trial court, accompanied by a presumption of the 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). Conclusions of law are subject to de novo review without any presumption of correctness. Presley v. Bennett, 86 S.W.2d 857 (Tenn. 1993). This tribunal is required to conduct an independent examination of the record to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies.
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Frederick D.
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/96
Harley R. Rucker v. Rockwood Electric Utilities
03S01-9511-CH-00127
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. Plaintiff was injured when he fell and hit his arm on a buzz saw while cutting trees along utility lines as an employee of Woodland Tree Service, which had a contract to cut the trees for Rockwood Electric Utilities. The trial judge dismissed plaintiff's complaint, finding that Rockwood Electric Utilities was not plaintiff's statutory employer under TENN. CODE ANN. _ 5-6- 113. However, he found plaintiff to have sustained a 45% permanent partial disability to his right hand. We reverse the judgment and remand the case to the trial court. Plaintiff was hired by Woodland Tree Service to help fulfill Woodland's contract with Rockwood Electric Utilities. The agreement between Woodland Tree Service and Rockwood Electric Utilities was in the form of a written contract which was introduced at trial. Plaintiff reported every morning to Rockwood Electric Utilities where he met with Don White, a supervisor at Rockwood, to learn whether he should continue working on the present job or if he needed to work on some emergency project. He would also pick up a "bucket truck" owned by Rockwood to be used in cutting trees. Woodland provided all of the other equipment used by its employees. Occasionally, Rockwood supervisors would come to the site where Woodland employees were working to check on the progress of the work, occasionally telling the employees to hurry up or moving them elsewhere to a "hot spot." Woodland had absolute authority to hire and fire its own employees. Under the contract between the parties, Rockwood reserved the right to provide equipment and materials at a lower cost if those provided by Woodland were too high. Woodland paid its employees directly but according to a schedule of wages set by Rockwood. Woodland was required to notify Rockwood of changes in wage rates. Under their contract, Rockwood reserved the right to inspect Woodland's work and audit its books. The contract also provided that Woodland employees could not enter the area where power lines were located unless 2
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Originating Judge: Hon. Frank V. Williams,
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 10/30/96
William O. Worley, Jr. v. Tecumseh Products Company
01S01-9509-CV-00160
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. In this case, the trial court awarded 45% permanent partial disability to the right arm. Defendant contends that the evidence does not support the percentage of disability awarded and requests that this court reduce and amend the judgment of the trial court accordingly. The Defendant also contends that the trial court erred in accrediting the testimony of Plaintiff's expert witness over the testimony of the treating physician. The final issue is whether the trial court erred in awarding discretionary costs for the deposition of Plaintiff's expert medical witness. The Defendant also raises the issue of whether the trial court erred in awarding a lump sum. As the benefits have now accrued, this issue is moot. On June 19, 1992, Plaintiff injured his right arm and wrist while working on a machine. Plaintiff is 48 years old and has a high school education. His work experience consists of working in the parts department, as a mechanic, as a tool and die worker, on a surveying crew, as a fire fighter, as a guard, and as a water pipeline repairer. Each of these jobs required heavy manual labor and the use of Plaintiff's arms and hands. Plaintiff had been employed at Tecumseh for approximately a year and a half when he sustained the injury. Dr. L. L. Carter, Jr. treated the Plaintiff after he was injured. Dr. Carter first examined Plaintiff on July 7, 1992. Dr. Carter testified, by deposition, that the nerve conduction tests showed elbow nerve and wrist nerve damage. Initially, Dr. Carter treated this condition conservatively, with a wrist splint, with no improvement. On August 31, 1992, Dr. Carter performed ulnar nerve decompression and submuscular transposition. At the same time, carpal tunnel release in the right hand and a nerve graft to the neuroma on the right wrist were performed. Three days later, Plaintiff was told to return to light work. Plaintiff was returned to regular work on December 15, 1992. Dr. Carter did not see Plaintiff again until January 8, 1993, at the request of
Authoring Judge: Robert L. Childers, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Buddy D. Perry,
Sequatchie County Workers Compensation Panel 10/25/96
Alva Marie Reynolds v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
01S01-9509-CH-00172
This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 5-6-225 (e)(3) for hearing and reporting findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Supreme Court. Alva Marie Reynolds, the plaintiff- employee, appeals the decision of the Coffee County Chancery Court denying her relief on her worker's compensation claim. On appeal, the sole issue is whether the trial court erred in finding that the plaintiff failed to carry the burden of proving that she sustained an injury arising out of her employment. The trial court found plaintiff 's injury was the result of a pre-existing idiopathic condition. On January 5, 1993, the plaintiff, who was at that time sixty-two years old, sustained an injury to her ankle when she fell at her place of employment, Wal- Mart. The plaintiff had worked at Wal-Mart in diverse capacities for eleven years before her accident, and at the time of her injury, she had been working in the fitting room area for a couple of years. In addition to monitoring the clothing which was brought in and out of the fitting room, she answered Wal-Mart's incoming calls, made announcements, and paged employees within the store. Regarding her fall, the plaintiff testified that, after being told to take a hurried break, she rushed out of the fitting room and fell at the point that the floor changed from carpet to tile. She testified that she had not previously experienced numbness in her legs nor had she ever fallen at work or home before this incident. The plaintiff worked the remainder of the day and did not see a doctor until the next day when her ankle was diagnosed as being broken. On cross-examination, the plaintiff acknowledged that in two depositions taken after the accident, she did not mention that she was in a hurry at the time that she fell. She explained that she did not remember this until later. However, in a deposition 2
Authoring Judge: Erry L. Smith, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. John W. Rollins, Judge
Coffee County Workers Compensation Panel 10/25/96
Phillip L. Pyrdum v. Teledyne Systems Company Inc., Teledyne Lewisburg
01S01-9601-CH-00009
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.
Authoring Judge: Cornelia A. Clark, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Tyrus H. Cobb
Marshall County Workers Compensation Panel 10/25/96
Neva Jewel Milam v. Hca Health Systems, Inc. d/b/a Centennial Medical Center
01S01-9601-CH-00004
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 contends (1) the award of permanent partial disability benefits is inadequate and (2) the chancellor "erred as a matter of law by deciding, before any evidence had been heard or any witnesses testified, that the on-the-job accident had only a tangential relationship with" her injury. The employer seeks dismissal of the appeal because the claimant did not file a statement of the evidence and was not entitled to a copy of the transcript of the evidence. Because a transcript is part of the record on appeal, the issue raised by the employer must necessarily be considered first. Unlike some other jurisdictions, Tennessee does not provide official court stenographers for civil trials. Instead, it is customary in this state that the parties to civil litigation will engage a stenographer and pay a per diem for stenographic services. Those parties who participate in the per diem may, for an additional fee, order from the stenographer a transcript of the evidence for use on appeal in case of an adverse decision in the trial court. The stenographer does not customarily make the transcript available to a party who did not participate in payment of the per diem. It is a matter of contract among the parties to the litigation and the non-party stenographer; and a party who does not join in the engagement and payment of a stenographer has no contract right to require the stenographer to transcribe the record which is therefore unavailable until made available on terms satisfactory to both the stenographer and the party or parties who engaged the stenographer. See Beef N' Bird of America, Inc. v. Continental Casualty Company, 83 S.W.2d 234 (Tenn. App. 199). Instead, a non-participating party may prepare a narrative statement of the evidence for use on appeal. The procedure for including a statement of the evidence in the record on appeal is provided by Tenn. R. App. P. 24(c). We find no statement of the evidence in the record. In this case, the employer engaged the services of a stenographer - or court reporter - in the trial court and paid the full per diem. The claimant did not participate. When the chancellor issued his decision, however, she was dissatisfied with the outcome and decided to appeal. Instead of preparing a statement of the evidence, she applied to the trial court for an order requiring the employer to make a transcript available to her. The trial court granted the motion. Appellate rules do not require that a party who has assumed the burden of providing a court reporter at trial make available that reporter's work for a party who did not join in providing the reporter; and, in the absence of unusual circumstances, the rules do not permit a party to see how his case comes out before deciding whether to share in the reporter's fees. One who follows that course runs the risk of not having a verbatim record available. See Estate of 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Robert S. Brandt,
Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/96
Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Insurance Company and Schering-Plough Health Care Products, Inc. v. Willie Gwen Smith
02S01-9511-CV-00110
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. Plaintiffs filed suit seeking a determination that defendant is not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. They appeal from the trial court's finding that she is entitled to benefits.
Authoring Judge: Cornelia A. Clark, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. D'Army Bailey,
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/96
Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Insurance Company and Schering-Plough Health Care Products, Inc. v. Willie Gwen Smith
02S01-9511-CV-00110
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. Plaintiffs filed suit seeking a determination that defendant is not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. They appeal from the trial court's finding that she is entitled to benefits.
Authoring Judge: Cornelia A. Clark, Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. D'Army Bailey,
Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/96
Darla Holt v. National Union Fire Ins. Co.
03S01-9601-CV-00003
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 court awarded plaintiff 3% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. Defendant challenges the permanency of the injury and the methodology used by the trial judge to reach his finding. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. Plaintiff, 28, has a GED and has been trained as a certified nursing technician. Most of her work experience has been in this area. She was involved in a car accident in 1988 which eventually led to a total right hip replacement in July 1992 due to avascular necrosis. Plaintiff injured her back lifting a patient on November 7, 1993. Plaintiff was treated by Dr. Boyd D. Matthews, a chiropractor, who testified in this case by deposition. He opined that plaintiff had central disc protrusions at L4- L5 and L5-S1 based upon his examination, plaintiff's complaints and the results of various imaging studies. He assigned plaintiff a permanent impairment rating of 33% to the body as a whole. He arrived at this impairment rating by rating various impairment factors and compiling them under the AMA Guides. Dr. Robert H. Haralson, III, an orthopedic surgeon, examined the plaintiff at the request of the defendant and testified by deposition. He opined that, although plaintiff certainly had a back injury, she did not retain any permanent impairment. He acknowledged that plaintiff had protruding discs at L4 and L5; however, he opined that they did not impinge on plaintiff's nerves and that they pre- existed her back injury, based on his review of CT scans taken before and after the work- related injury. The trial judge discredited the testimony of Dr. Boyd D. Matthews. With Dr. Matthew's testimony discredited, there was no medical testimony upon which to base a medical impairment finding. The trial judge, in his ruling, found, based upon 2
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge John K. Byers
Originating Judge: Hon. John A. Turnbull,
Cumberland County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/96
Geneva Hicks v. Emerson Motor Company
02S01-9602-CH-00022
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 contends the evidence preponderates against the findings of the trial court with respect to causation and permanency. The panel finds the preponderance of the evidence to be contrary to the finding of the trial court with respect to causation. The employee or claimant, Geneva Hicks, is 45 with an eleventh grade education. She has worked at a day care center, caring for small children, in a clothing factory and as a fruit packer. She has worked in various jobs for the employer, Emerson, since 198. She has suffered from hoarseness and shortness of breath at work since about 1992, for which she has seen numerous doctors. In the course of her work for Emerson, she was exposed to various fumes. The employer has attempted to accommodate her by transfer to different departments and by the use of fans. She finally commenced this action for workers' compensation benefits for a claimed occupational disease, which she labeled allergic bronchitis. She was referred by her attorney to Dr. A. Clyde Heflin, Jr., who saw her on several occasions and opined in his deposition testimony that she was possibly having asthmatic attacks at work. The doctor was given a list of chemicals and asked and answered as follows: Q. ...(A)t this point in time, do you have an opinion, based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty, as to what connection this lady's job place has as to her asthmatic condition? A. The list of substances that I've been supplied have numerous items which are -- and maybe we need to regress a second. The workplace environment, as far as causing asthma, you have to understand that asthma we now consider to be this hyper-reactive or irritable state of the lungs; and that is caused or generated by someone or a substance causing what we call an inflammatory condition or direct irritation of the lungs. So there is a long list of substances now known in the workplace that actually can induce asthma; and the classic one of these are TDI's, or diasocyanates, which are used in the plastics industry, for instance. The epoxy resins, which I don't see here specifically listed, but are often used in electrical manufacturing, can cause this as well. 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. George R. Ellis,
Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/96
Geneva Hicks v. Emerson Motor Company
02S01-9602-CH-00022
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 contends the evidence preponderates against the findings of the trial court with respect to causation and permanency. The panel finds the preponderance of the evidence to be contrary to the finding of the trial court with respect to causation. The employee or claimant, Geneva Hicks, is 45 with an eleventh grade education. She has worked at a day care center, caring for small children, in a clothing factory and as a fruit packer. She has worked in various jobs for the employer, Emerson, since 198. She has suffered from hoarseness and shortness of breath at work since about 1992, for which she has seen numerous doctors. In the course of her work for Emerson, she was exposed to various fumes. The employer has attempted to accommodate her by transfer to different departments and by the use of fans. She finally commenced this action for workers' compensation benefits for a claimed occupational disease, which she labeled allergic bronchitis. She was referred by her attorney to Dr. A. Clyde Heflin, Jr., who saw her on several occasions and opined in his deposition testimony that she was possibly having asthmatic attacks at work. The doctor was given a list of chemicals and asked and answered as follows: Q. ...(A)t this point in time, do you have an opinion, based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty, as to what connection this lady's job place has as to her asthmatic condition? A. The list of substances that I've been supplied have numerous items which are -- and maybe we need to regress a second. The workplace environment, as far as causing asthma, you have to understand that asthma we now consider to be this hyper-reactive or irritable state of the lungs; and that is caused or generated by someone or a substance causing what we call an inflammatory condition or direct irritation of the lungs. So there is a long list of substances now known in the workplace that actually can induce asthma; and the classic one of these are TDI's, or diasocyanates, which are used in the plastics industry, for instance. The epoxy resins, which I don't see here specifically listed, but are often used in electrical manufacturing, can cause this as well. 2
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. George R. Ellis,
Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/96
Insurance Company of North America v. Ronnie Storie
01S01-9602-CV-00037
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 presented by this appeal is whether the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that the employee's injury was proximately caused by intoxication. As discussed below, the panel has concluded the judgment should be reversed and the case remanded for an award of benefits. The claimant or employee, Storie, is forty-five years old and has an eighth grade education. On March 18, 1993, he reported to work at 6:3 p.m. at Kentucky Apparel to perform his usual duties as a maintenance mechanic. During the course of the shift, he needed to obtain some copper tubing and light bulbs to perform his duties. Those supplies were stored above a dropped ceiling above the maintenance office and accessible by a ladder and some loose boards. The claimant negotiated the ladder without a problem, but slipped and fell when one of the loose boards moved. He fell through the ceiling and onto a concrete floor in the men's rest room below, frightening a user, who beat a hasty exit and reported the accident. The claimant suffered multiple injuries, including a broken arm and back injury. We find in the record no direct evidence the claimant was intoxicated at the time. In fact, he had apparently performed his duties satisfactorily until the accident occurred. The injurious accident occurred shortly before 2:45 a. m. on March 19th. After some delay, he was driven to the Fentress County Hospital by a co-worker, arriving at about 3: a. m. When no doctor was available to treat his arm injury, he was transported to the Putnam County Hospital. When he arrived there at about 6:3 a. m., he smelled of alcohol and a blood alcohol test revealed an alcohol content of approximately .2 percent. The claimant insists he consumed the alcohol, retrieved from his own vehicle at the plant and provided by a friend while waiting for medical attention, after the accident, to help relieve pain associated with his injuries. The trial court disallowed the claim as being proximately caused by intoxication. 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). This tribunal is required to conduct an independent examination of the record to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies.
Authoring Judge: Joe C. Loser, Jr., Special Judge
Originating Judge: Hon. Conrad E. Troutman,
Fentress County Workers Compensation Panel 10/22/96