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