Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 12/09/2022
Format: 12/09/2022
Sonney Summers v. RTR Transportation Services et al.
M2022-00084-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Robert E. Lee Davies, Sr. Judge
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Durham
Employee Christine Summers was killed in the course and scope of her employment with
RTR Transportation Services. Employee's surviving spouse, Sonney Summers, filed a
claim for death benefits. The parties ultimately agreed that Mr. Summers was entitled to
death benefits. However, they disagreed regarding whether the death benefits should be
paid in a lump sum. They also disagreed regarding whether Mr. Summers's attorneys were
entitled to have their fees paid in a lump sum and whether attorneys' fees were recoverable
for burial expenses. The trial court determined that neither Mr. Summers's death benefits
nor the attorneys' fees should be commuted to a lump sum payment. The trial court also
found that attorneys' fees were not recoverable for burial expenses. The Workers'
Compensation Appeals Board affirmed. Employee has appealed, and the appeal has been
referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel for consideration and a
report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court
Rule 51. We affirm in part and reverse in part.
Workers Compensation Panel 10/28/22
Dianne Moore v. Beacon Transport LLC et al.
M2021-01451-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joshua Davis Baker

Employee Dianne Moore experienced bilateral numbness, weakness, and tingling from her mid-chest down after performing a work-related task as a truck driver for Employer Beacon Transport, LLC. Following initial treatment in a local emergency room in Ardmore, Oklahoma, Employee was seen by Oklahoma City neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Cox. Dr. Cox diagnosed Employee with an incomplete spinal cord injury in the form of a spinal cord contusion or lesion, which he opined resulted from her work-related activity. Employee was subsequently seen by panel physician, Nashville, Tennessee neurologist Dr. W. Garrison Strickland. Dr. Strickland diagnosed Employee with a thoracic spinal cord lesion caused by transverse myelitis, a condition which was not work-related. Employee additionally was seen by Nashville, Tennessee neurologist Dr. Darian Reddick, who similarly diagnosed Employee with idiopathic transverse myelitis syndrome-myelitis of unknown origin—a condition which was not work-related. Employee self-referred to Goodlettsville, Tennessee neurologist Dr. James Anderson, who indicated that Employee suffered a work-related back injury with effect on the spinal cord caused by back strain with transient give-way of structural elements traumatizing the spinal cord. The Court of Workers' Compensation Claims denied Employee's claim for benefits, and the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board affirmed. Employee has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred in accrediting the causation opinions of Dr. Strickland and Dr. Reddick, over the opinions of Dr. Cox and Dr. Anderson and concluding that she had failed to establish her condition was work-related. 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.

Workers Compensation Panel 10/24/22
Jamie Henderson, as Surviving Spouse of David Joe Turner v. Pee Dee Country Enterprises, Inc. et al.
M2021-00970-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Chief Judge Kenneth Switzer

This appeal arises from an award of attorneys’ fees.  At issue is whether the trial court, when determining an award of fees in a workers’ compensation death case, must consider the reasonableness of the attorneys’ fees or whether the trial court must deem the fees reasonable if the fees do not exceed twenty percent of the award. Employer also takes issue with a lump sum award of attorneys’ fees.  We affirm the trial court’s award of $46,457.10 in lump sum.

Workers Compensation Panel 06/20/22
Frederick Russell v. Aluma-Form, Inc., et al.
W2021-00717-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amber E. Luttrell

Employee Frederick Russell was working for Employer Aluma-Forrn, Inc. in January 2018 when he sustained an injury to his left shoulder and neck. He reported the injury and received treatment from an orthopedic specialist whose conservative approach to his case included an MRI, an EMG, physical therapy, and referrals to a neurosurgeon and a pain management specialist. Though Employee reported continued pain despite these efforts, his medical providers opined that they could find no objective basis for his reported syrnptoms and believed them unrelated to his work injury. Employee later sought treatment from a different, unauthorized orthopedic specialist who performed surgeiy on his shoulder and thereby discovered and repaired a previously undiagnosed torn labrum. Employee sought compensation, and after considering the proof, the Court of Workers' Compensation Claims held that Employee had established that his injury was caused by his workplace incident, that Ernployer was liable for his medical expenses including those incurred for unauthorized treatrnent, and that Employee was entitled to both permanent partial disability benefits and temporary total disability benefits. Employer appealed, arguing that the trial court erred on all three issues. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel for consideration and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Workers Compensation Panel 04/21/22
Derinda Carr v. Windham Professionals, Inc. et al.
M2021-00451-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Thompson
Appellant Derinda Carr challenges the trial court's finding her neck injury did not arise primarily "out of and in the course and scope of' her employment. 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 agree with the trial court and affirm the judgment.
 
Sumner County Workers Compensation Panel 04/14/22
Amy A. Cummings-Boyd v. Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Garrety, P.C.
W2021-00720-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

This appeal involves an employer's appeal of an order to compel medical treatment. The employer argues the trial court erred by ordering it to provide the employee specific continuing treatment, as well as treatments requested by all of her approved treating physicians in the future, without evidence that the continuing and future treatments are reasonably necessary and causally related to her work injury. The employer's appeal has been referred to this Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel pursuant to Tennessee Suprerne Court Rule 51. We affirm the trial court's order compelling the requested medical treatment, but modify the order to omit predetermined approval of future medical treatments, and affirm as modified.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 03/04/22
Brett Rosasco v. West Knoxville Painters, LLC
E2020-01656-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge William B. Acree, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela Johnson
Brett Rosasco (“Employee”) was injured when he was struck by a falling tree after he tried to use a portable restroom near his worksite. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims determined that Mr. Rosasco’s injury did not “arise primarily out of and in the course and scope of [his] employment” and granted summary judgment for West Knoxville Painters, LLC (“Employer”). See Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-102(14). Mr. Rosasco’s appeal has been referred to this Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. After reviewing the evidence, we affirm the judgment.
Workers Compensation Panel 11/18/21
James Prescott v. Premier Manufacturing Corp.
W2021-00052-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

Employee sustained a back injury during his employment with Employer. Employee subsequently resigned from his employment as a result of the injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim. The trial court determined the injury was compensable as an aggravation of pre-existing back problems and awarded benefits. Employer has appealed, asserting the trial court erred in finding the injury was compensable; in adopting the impairment rating assigned by the authorized treating physician; and in applying a four multiplier. 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.

Chester County Workers Compensation Panel 11/18/21
Brian Coblentz v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc., Et Al.
M2020-01622-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

This appeal arises from a motion filed by Brian Coblentz (“Employee”) to compel Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. (“Employer”) to provide medical treatment under the terms of a consent order previously entered by the trial court. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Employee’s motion. Employee 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.

Lincoln County Workers Compensation Panel 10/20/21
Bethany Shelton v. Hobbs Enterprises, LLC, Et Al.
M2020-01220-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joshua Davis Baker

Bethany Shelton (“Employee”) filed a petition for benefit determination against Hobbs Enterprises, LLC (“Employer”) alleging an injury to her right shoulder suffered in a work- related accident on August 26, 2017. She sought temporary total, permanent partial, and continued medical benefits. Following the issuance of a dispute certification notice, Employer moved for summary judgment on the basis the only medical testimony, from the Employee’s treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Sean Kaminsky, was insufficient as a matter of law to establish causation. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims (the “trial court”) denied the motion and denied Employer’s motion to reconsider. Employer sought an expedited appeal before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, but then sought and was granted a dismissal of that appeal. A trial was held, after which the trial court denied Employee’s claim on the ground she had failed to meet her burden to establish her right shoulder injury arose primarily out of and in the course and scope of her employment with Employer. Employee filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied. She appealed directly to the Supreme Court. 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 Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims.

Workers Compensation Panel 09/27/21
Nicole Bowlin v. Servall, LLC, et al.
W2020-01708-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Allen Phillips

Nicole Bowlin ("Employee") filed a workers' compensation claim against Servall, LLC ("Employer") alleging injuries suffered in a work-related motor vehicle accident. Employer initially denied the claim. After an expedited hearing, the Court of Workers' Compensation Claims ("trial court") ordered Employer to pay Einployee's medical expenses and awarded attorney's fees under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-226(a)(1). The Workers' Coinpensation Appeals Board ("Appeals Board") vacated the award of attorney's fees as premature and rernanded the case. The parties settled the case as to all issues except for attorney's fees. The trial court approved the settlement agreement but declined to order Employer to pay the attorney's fees authorized by section 50-6-226(a)(1). The Appeals Board affirmed. Employee 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 of the Appeals Board and adopt its opinion as set forth in the attached Appendix.

Workers Compensation Panel 08/13/21
Gwendolyn Jumper v. Kellog Company ET AL.
W2020-01274-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amber E. Luttrell

Gwendolyn Jumper (“Employee”) filed this action against Kellogg Company (“Employer”), seeking workers’ compensation benefits for an injury to her back. Following a hearing, the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims denied Employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Employee has appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Workers Compensation Panel 06/23/21
Angela Varner Nickerson v. Knox County, Tennessee
E2020-01286-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas Wyatt

Employee filed a workers’ compensation claim against Employer alleging mental injury resulting from traumatic work-related experiences that occurred years earlier. Employer denied the claim and moved for summary judgment citing the statute of limitations. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims denied the motion. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board vacated the order and remanded for the court to consider whether it had subject matter jurisdiction based on Employee’s alleged date of injury. After a second hearing, the court again denied summary judgment, concluding the date of Employee’s mental injury should be determined by the “discovery rule” and the “last day worked” rule. The Appeals Board reversed and remanded for entry of an order of dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Employee 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 of the Appeals Board and adopt its opinion as set forth in the attached Appendix.

Workers Compensation Panel 06/08/21
Nesreen Boutros v. Amazon.Com DEDC, LLC Et Al.
M2020-00455-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth M. Switzer

Nesreen Boutros (“Employee”) suffered a work-related injury to her right arm and neck while working for her employer, Amazon.com DEDC, LLC (“Employer”), on April 23, 2015. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims (the “trial court”) held Employee suffered a compensable injury and was entitled to lifetime medical benefits and temporary total disability (“TTD”) benefits, but suffered no permanent impairment. Employer appealed the award of TTD benefits and additional medical benefits, and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (the “Appeals Board”) affirmed. Employer appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for consideration and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. After careful consideration, we affirm the decision of the Appeals Board and adopt its well-reasoned opinion in its entirety as set forth in the attached Appendix.  

Workers Compensation Panel 04/08/21
Charles Hopper v. UGN, Inc.
W2020-00524-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Butler

Charles Hopper filed this workers’ compensation action after suffering a work-related injury to his neck. The trial court found that Mr. Hopper is permanently and totally disabled. Employer concedes that Mr. Hopper suffered a work-related injury but argues that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s judgment as to permanent and total disability. Employer also argues that any award should be limited to 1.5 times the impairment rating. The appeal has been referred to this Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 03/26/21
Memphis Light Gas & Water Division v. Charles Nesbit
W2019-02275-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge JoeDae Jenkins

Charles Nesbit (“Employee”) worked as a bucket truck driver for Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division (“Employer”). Employee sought workers’ compensation benefits for a gradually occurring injury to his knees. Relevant to the issues on appeal, the trial court found Employee suffered a compensable gradually occurring injury at work, and gave timely notice of his claim. Employer has appealed. The appeal has been referred to this Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We find that Employee did not give timely notice of his claim, and we reverse the judgment.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 03/26/21
John Pearson v. Memphis Light Gas & Water Division
W2020-00462-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deana C. Seymour

Plaintiff-Appellant John Pearson appeals the decision of the Court of Workers’ Compensation declining to award him benefits for a spinal cord injury allegedly sustained during the course and scope of his employment. The trial court held that Mr. Pearson’s claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations and, alternatively, that he had failed to prove that his job installing streetlights was the actual and proximate cause of his injury. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. Because we conclude that Mr. Pearson filed his petition more than one year after he discovered his injury, the statute of limitations bars his claim. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Workers Compensation Panel 03/24/21
Jeffrey Garner v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
W2020-00280-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Maloan

Employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits alleging he sustained high-frequency hearing loss during his employment with Employer. Employer disputed both causation and the method used by Employee’s physician’s to ascertain anatomical impairment. After considering the proof, the trial court determined the hearing loss was caused by Employee’s employment and awarded benefits. Employer has appealed, arguing Employee’s hearing loss was not primarily caused by his employment and contending the trial court erred in adopting an anatomical impairment rating method not “used and accepted by the medical community.” 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 chancery court’s causation findings but we reverse the judgment in all other respects.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 03/19/21
Sandra Cummings v. Express Courier International, Inc.
E2020-00548-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Honorable Robert E. Lee Davies, Senior Judge
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor
Sandra Cummings was injured at work on April 29, 2010, and February 7, 2012. She filed complaints against Express Courier International, Inc. ("Employer"), Hartford Insurance Company ("Hartford"), and Zurich American Insurance Company ("Zurich"). The trial court found that Ms. Cummings is permanently and totally disabled as the result of an injury to the body and that Employer is entitled to an offset based on Ms. Cummings's social security benefits. Tenn. Code Ann.§ 50-6-207(4)(A)(i) (2014) (applicable to injuries occurring prior to July 1, 2014). In this appeal, Ms. Cummings argues that the trial court erred in applying the social security offset because her injury was to a scheduled member. In addition, Hartford argues that the trial court erred in ordering it to pay temporary total disability benefits because Zurich was the insurance carrier at the time of Ms. Cummings's second injury. The appeal has been referred to this Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. See Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51. We affirm the trial court's judgment that Ms. Cummings is permanently and totally disabled as a result of an injury to the body and that Employer is entitled to a social security offset. We modify the judgment by requiring Zurich to reimburse Hartford for the payment of temporary total disability benefits.
Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 02/17/21
Latoya Paris v. McKee Foods Corp.
E2020-00358-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor

The employee in this workers’ compensation case appeals the trial court’s ruling that the independent intervening cause principle applies to relieve her former employer of liability for continued benefits under the parties’ settlement of the employee’s prior claim. After the employee’s original compensable injury while working for the defendant employer, the parties settled the claim. The employee was placed on lifting restrictions. The trial court held the employee negligently exceeded those lifting restrictions and this conduct constituted an independent intervening cause that relieved the original employer from liability for continued workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court also held, however, that the employee’s negligent conduct did not result in a new injury. On appeal, we hold that, if the employee’s activity results in only an increase in pain but there is no new injury or aggravation of the original injury, the independent intervening cause principle is not applicable to relieve the original employer of liability. We reverse the trial court’s holding that the independent intervening cause principle relieves the defendant employer of liability for workers’ compensation benefits. We affirm the trial court’s holding that there was not a new injury or an aggravation of the employee’s condition and hold that the employee is entitled to statutory medical benefits, attorney fees, and costs.

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 02/16/21
Vicki Pillow v. State of Tennessee
M2019-02274-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner James A. Haltom

An employee sustained severe injuries when she was run over by a public transit bus on her way to work. The employer denied the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, and she filed a complaint with the Tennessee Claims Commission. Both parties filed competing motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether the employee was within the course and scope of her employment when the injury occurred. The Claims Commission answered the question in the negative and determined that the case was subject to the “coming and going” rule. Therefore, the Claims Commission granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. Upon our review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the decision of the Claims Commission.

Workers Compensation Panel 12/11/20
Richard Vaughn v. City of Murfreesboro And The Second Injury Fund
M2018-02048-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

Employee injured his left shoulder during a training session. He was diagnosed with a torn shoulder ligament which required a surgical repair of the left shoulder. Nine months later, Employee’s treating physician performed a posterior capsular release of the left shoulder. When his symptoms failed to improve, Employer authorized follow up care with a different orthopedic surgeon, who performed another surgery to release the bicep tendon that had been previously repaired. Employer was provided with a letter from Employee’s treating physician that Employee’s restrictions had been lifted. Employee was required to take a return to duty test, which he ultimately failed. Subsequently, Employee developed intermittent violent movements of his head and was diagnosed with conversion disorder. At the request of Employee’s counsel, Employee underwent an independent medical examination by a psychiatrist, who concluded that the conversion disorder arose out of Employee’s work injury. However, because the psychiatrist noted issues regarding symptom magnification, he reduced Employee’s psychiatric impairment rating to ten percent. Following a trial, the court awarded benefits for injuries to Employee’s left shoulder and for the psychiatric injury; however, it found that Employee was not permanently and totally disabled. The trial court also declined to apply a multiplier to the impairment rating for the psychiatric injury and award temporary total disability related to that injury. The Employee 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 trial court’s judgment.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 10/07/20
Frederick Perry v. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation
W2019-01549-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Martha B. Brasfield

Frederick Perry (“Employee”) worked for Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation (“Employer”) at a variety of jobs beginning in 1988. On February 22, 2013, Employee was working on a cutting machine cutting steel elevator panels. While attempting to move a large steel panel from the work table to a pallet with a jib crane, Employee slipped and fell. Employee was determined to have suffered a torn labrum in his right hip and a torn meniscus in his right knee, which were surgically repaired. Employee’s treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Adam Smith, placed Employee at maximum medical improvement (“MMI”) on June 13, 2014. He assigned Employee anatomical impairment ratings of 3% to the lower right extremity for the right hip injury and 3% to the lower right extremity for the right knee injury, for a combined anatomical impairment rating of 6% to the lower right extremity or 2% to the body as a whole. Dr. Smith placed certain restrictions on Employee. Employer returned Employee to work at another job accommodating his restrictions and providing a higher rate of pay. On March 3, 2015, Employee underwent an independent medical examination by physical medicine and rehab physician, Dr. Samuel Jae Jin Chung, on referral from his attorney. Dr. Chung diagnosed Employee as suffering “[r]esidual from right knee injury requiring extensive surgical intervention with ongoing symptoms of right patellofemoral arthritis” and “[r]esidual from right hip injury secondary to fall with status post surgical intervention with ongoing symptomatology.” Dr. Chung assigned Employee anatomical impairment ratings of 15% to the right lower extremity for the right knee injury and 22% to the right lower extremity for the right hip injury, for a combined anatomical impairment rating of 34% to the lower right extremity or 13% to the body as a whole. Dr. Chung placed certain restrictions on Employee and suggested the possibility of need for a future right knee replacement. A Benefit Review Conference was held on December 2, 2015, resulting in an impasse. The parties were unable to resolve the extent of Employee’s anatomical impairment or his vocational impairment. Employee brought suit. The parties stipulated or agreed that Employee had received all the temporary total disability benefits to which he was entitled, Employer had paid all authorized medical expenses, and the 1.5 multiplier cap applied. The trial court rejected the anatomical impairment ratings of both Dr. Smith and Dr. Chung and adopted its own modified anatomical impairment ratings of 18% to the lower right extremity for the right hip injury and 14% to the lower right extremity for the right knee injury, for a combined anatomical impairment rating of 29% to the lower right extremity or 12% to the body as a whole. The trial court awarded Employee permanent partial disability benefits based upon a vocational impairment of 18% to the body as a whole. 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 in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

Hardeman County Workers Compensation Panel 09/16/20
Robert Rodgers v. Rent-A-Center East Inc. ET AL.
W2019-01106-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge:
Trial Court Judge:

Employee was injured in an automobile accident in the course and scope of his employment with Employer. The authorized treating physician and an authorized second opinion physician concluded that Employee suffered zero percent (0%) permanent impairment from his injury and released Employee to return to work. Employee did not successfully return to work and sought private medical treatment, including an independent medical examination (“IME”). The Employee’s IME physician assigned a seven percent (7%) permanent impairment rating. Employer then sought an independent medical evaluation from a physician chosen from the Medical Impairment Registry (“MIR”). The MIR physician assigned a two percent (2%) permanent impairment rating. The trial court adopted the seven percent (7%) permanent impairment rating and awarded permanent partial disability benefits based on a multiplier of three, having determined Employee failed to make a meaningful return to work, for an award of 21% permanent partial disability to the body as a whole. The court further awarded 104 weeks of temporary total disability benefits and certain discretionary costs. Employer has appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in adopting the rating of Employee’s IME physician rather than the MIR physician’s rating; in determining Employee did not make a meaningful return to work; in awarding extended temporary total disability benefits; and in awarding Employee his discretionary costs. 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. Following our review of the trial court’s judgment and the record on appeal, we modify in part, affirm in part, and reverse in part.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 07/29/20
Kenneth Brian Coates v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
W2019-00904-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael M. Maloan

Kenneth Brian Coates (“Employee”) worked as a feed mill supervisor for Tyson Foods, Inc. (“Employer”). On June 6, 2013, Employee was using a sledge hammer to help unload soybean meal from a railcar when he started to feel pain in his elbows. Employee sought treatment with his family physician, who diagnosed him with tennis elbow in both arms, and informed him that his symptoms may resolve. On December 23, 2014, Employee met with an orthopedic surgeon who recommended surgery. The surgery was performed on Employee’s right elbow in January 2015 and on his left elbow in March 2015. Employee did not miss any work related to his injury until the date of his first surgery. Employee did not return to work for Employer following his surgeries. Employee filed a Request for a Benefit Review Conference with the Tennessee Department of Labor, which resulted in an impasse. Employee brought suit, and the trial court awarded him back temporary total disability benefits and permanent partial disability benefits. Relevant to the issues on appeal, the trial court determined that Employee’s claim was timely filed and that he did not have a meaningful return to work. 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.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 07/28/20