Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 10/21/2014
Format: 10/21/2014
Dana Automotive Systems Group, LLC, et al. v. Larry Evans
W2013-01960-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. S. "Steve" Daniel
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

An employee developed carpal tunnel syndrome while working as a welder and supervisor for his employer. Prior to receiving medical treatment and unrelated to the injury, the employer gave the employee a choice to retire or potentially lose his substantial pension. The trial court held that the Medical Impairment Registry physician’s rating was incorrect and that the statutory one and one-half cap on permanent partial disability benefits did not apply. The employer appealed.  After a thorough review of the record, we reverse in part and affirm in part.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Russell Kyle v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company
W2013-01505-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

An insurance adjuster was injured when he fell from a ladder after inspecting a roof for his employer. Consistent with a voluntary agreement with his employer, the employee received sick leave payments in lieu of temporary total disability payments. After returning to work for two months, the employee retired. In addition to the employee’s medical records, the parties introduced into evidence the deposition of a physician selected through the Medical Impairment Registry. The physician assigned an impairment of nine percent to the body as a whole. The trial court, however, awarded permanent disability benefits based on an impairment of fourteen percent and awarded additional temporary total disability benefits. The trial court also granted the employer a setoff for payments made to the employee pursuant to his accrued sick leave. The employer appealed. We conclude that the trial court erred by awarding a set-off of the payments made under the employer’s sick leave policy and by adopting an impairment rating other than that assigned by the MIR physician. We remand the case for additional proceedings and findings by the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Kristen Ball v. Regions Financial Corporation, et al.
W2013-02454-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hope B. Calabro

An employee fell in the bathroom at her place of employment and reported pain in her right shoulder and hip. She was treated and released by her authorized physician. Approximately five months after the fall, she developed left knee pain. Five more months later, she developed pain her left hip and lower back. The employee’s knee and back conditions ultimately required surgery, but her employer denied that the fall at work caused her conditions. The trial court disagreed and awarded benefits for the knee and back injuries. The employer appealed. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the employee sustained a permanent, work-related injury to her back. We otherwise affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Ben J. Mosby v. McDowell Center for Children
W2012-02715-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Martha B. Brasfield

The employee alleged that he sustained a compensable workers’ compensation injury to his left shoulder and knee from a fall at work. The employer denied the claim. The trial court found that the employee did not comply with the notice statute, Tenn. Code Ann. §50-6-201(a)(2008) and dismissed the claim. The employee has appealed, contending that the trial court’s notice ruling was erroneous. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We find that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding and affirm the judgment.

Lauderdale County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Timothy Richard Plotner v. Metal Prep
W2012-02595-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

An employee contracted a lung condition while working as a forklift operator for his employer. After the employee’s treating physician informed him that the condition was caused by exposure to grain dust produced by a grain facility adjacent to the employer’s workplace, the employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer denied his claim, contending that it was not liable for the conditions that led to the injury. The trial court concluded that the employee’s condition rendered him permanently and totally disabled, and the employer appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 09/29/14
Darlene Poindexter v. Roadway Express d/b/a YRC, Inc., et al.
W2013-01968-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge William C. Cole

An employee asserted that she sustained a compensable injury while working as a truck driver for her employer. The employer denied the claim, contending that the employee did not sustain a compensable injury but only aggravated a pre-existing condition. The trial court entered a judgment in the employer’s favor, and the employee appealed. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Workers Compensation Panel 09/29/14
Dannie Joyner v. Erachem Comilog, Inc. et al.
M2013-02646-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Burch

The plaintiff sought workers’ compensation benefits, alleging thathe had developed diseases of the skin, lungs, and nervous system as a result of his exposure to nickel, cadmium, and manganese during his employment at a manufacturing facility owned by the defendant. The trial court found that the plaintiff had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his diseases were caused byexposure to these substances during his employment and entered judgment for the defendant. The plaintiff has appealed from the trial court’s decision. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Humphreys County Workers Compensation Panel 09/22/14
Jo Dean Nuchols v. Blount County, Tennessee
E2013-00574-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Harold Wimberly

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

Blount County Workers Compensation Panel 09/19/14
Michael Corey Peterson v. McMillan's Roofing and HVAC
E2013-02130-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John F. Weaver

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

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 08/25/14
Madia Dia v. Imports Collision Center, Inc.
M2013-01496-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge J. B. Cox
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, this workers’ compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law.  Employee filed a request for reconsideration pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-241(d)(1)(B), which Employer opposed on the ground that Employee’s loss of employment was due to Employee’s voluntary resignation and/or his employment-related misconduct.  The trial court ruled that Employer failed to carry its burden of proof as to either of the asserted grounds for denying reconsideration.  The trial court therefore granted Employee’s request for reconsideration and awarded increased benefits.  Based on our review of the entire record, we reverse the trial court’s judgment.
 

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/20/14
Jerry Simons v. A. O. Smith Corporation
M2013-01350-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge J. B. Cox
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

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

Montgomery County Workers Compensation Panel 08/20/14
Karen R. Woods v. ACE-American Insurance, Et Al.
E2013-01916-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor E.G. Moody

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

Sullivan County Workers Compensation Panel 08/15/14
United Parcel Service, Inc., et al. v. Kenneth Cameron
E2013-02001-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Marie Williams

The employee was injured in a motor vehicle accident while at work. He claimed permanent injury to his left elbow and left shoulder. The trial court found that his left elbow was permanently injured but that his left shoulder was not permanently injured. The employee has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by not finding that the left shoulder was permanently injured, by not awarding additional temporary disability benefits, and by failing to order surgery for his left shoulder. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 08/15/14
John M. Reitz v. Trinet HR Corporation et al.
M2013-01483-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor C. K. Smith

In this case, the employee alleged tha he sustained a compensable aggravation of preexisting arthritis in his knee as a result of a fall at work. His employer denied that he had a permanent disability as a result of the event.  The trial court awarded benefits, and the employer has appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51.  We affirm the judgment.   

Wilson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/07/14
Rhonda Kyle v. Volunteer Home Care of West Tennessee, Inc.
W2013-01892-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. S. "Steve" Daniel
Trial Court Judge: Judge Martha B. Brasfield

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

McNairy County Workers Compensation Panel 08/07/14
Ronald Brown v. Netherlands Insurance Company
E2013-01935-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey M. Atherton

After a work-related accident in August of 2010, the employee filed suit against his employer for workers’ compensation benefits, claiming permanent injury to both knees. The employer agreed that the injury to the employee’s right knee was compensable, but contended that the injury to the left knee was not work related. The trial court found for the employee, awarding benefits for injuries to each knee. The employer appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 07/30/14
Teddy Wayne Wilcutt v. CAM Electric Systems, et al.
W2013-00772-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Judge William Michael Maloan

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

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 07/28/14
Judy McClendon v. Food Lion, LLC
E2013-00380-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

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

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 07/11/14
Mary Wheetley v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01707-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice William C. Koch, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Tennessee Claims Commission

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

Workers Compensation Panel 06/25/14
Sheila Cameron v. Memorial Health Care Systems,Inc., et al.
E2013-01225-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Ben H. Cantrell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

A registered nurse sustained a compensable injury to her neck. The trial court found that she was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the injury. Her employer has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by failing to cap the award at oneand- one-half times the impairment rating pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A). In the alternative, the employer asserts that the trial court erred by awarding permanent total disability benefits. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Workers Compensation Panel 06/10/14