Workers Compensation Panel Opinions

Format: 11/18/2019
Format: 11/18/2019
Ronald Brantley v. Mike Brantley, et al.
E2018-01793-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge William B. Acree
Trial Court Judge: Judge Elizabeth C. Asbury

In 2009, Ronald Brantley (“Employee”) settled a workers’ compensation claim with Brantley Excavating (“Employer”) regarding a hand injury he sustained during the course and scope of his employment. Employee returned to his authorized treating physician in 2017, seeking medication for pain he was experiencing in his injured hand. The diagnostic test results were normal. The treating physician declined to prescribe pain medication and offered no further treatment. Employee subsequently moved to compel Employer to provide a panel of pain management physicians, claiming the treating physician had made a referral. The trial court concluded the treating physician did not make a referral and denied Employee’s motion, citing Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-204(j)(2)(A). 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 of the trial court.

Campbell County Workers Compensation Panel 11/06/19
Michael McCloud v. Charter Communications, Inc.
W2018-02166-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

The trial court found that Employee was permanently and totally disabled following a work-related injury to his back in January 2012. Employer’s 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. Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51, § 1. After reviewing the evidence in the record and the parties’ arguments, we conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s decision and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 10/24/19
Deborah L. Bain v. UTI Integrated Logistics LLC, et al
W2018-00840-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

Deborah Bain (“Employee”) worked for UTI Integrated Logistics LLC (“Employer”) as a shuttle truck driver. She sustained a compensable injury to her right shoulder and right wrist in August 2010 and entered into a settlement agreement with Employer. After returning to work, she suffered an injury to her left shoulder in January 2013. The trial court found that Employee is not permanently and totally disabled, that the 1.5 times cap applies for purposes of both reconsideration of the August 2010 injury and assessment of the January 2013 injury, that she has a 6% medical impairment rating for the January 2013 injury, and that Employer is not responsible for expenses related to treatment she sought on her own. Employee has appealed these rulings. Employer has appealed the trial court’s award of further temporary 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Benton County Workers Compensation Panel 10/16/19
Bradley Harlow v. Love's Travel Stops et al.
E2018-01905-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Duane Slone

An employer appeals a trial court’s award of workers’ compensation benefits, arguing that the employee failed to rebut the presumption of correctness afforded to the authorized treating physician about causation and that the trial court should have capped any permanent partial disability benefits under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50 6 241(d)(1)(A). This appeal was referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. After careful review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Jefferson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/14/19
Richard Moser v. Hara, Inc. D/B/A Hot Shot Delivery, Et Al.
M2018-02045-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe P. Binkley

Richard Moser (“Employee”) worked for Hara, Inc. d/b/a Hot Shot Delivery (“Employer”) as a truck driver. Employee filed this action against Employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, Auto-Owners Insurance Company, alleging that he sustained a compensable injury in August 2013, when he attempted to pull a duffel bag out of his truck. Employer asserts that the injury occurred in August 2014, when Employee used a crank to lower the landing gear on a trailer. In its defense, Employer specifically asserts that Employee’s failure to provide adequate notice of the 2014 injury contravenes his claim for compensation. Employee concedes he did not provide adequate notice of the 2014 injury. The trial court found that Employee suffered a compensable injury in August 2013 during the course and scope of his employment and retained a permanent anatomical impairment of 25% to the body as a whole as a result of the 2013 injury. Employer has appealed that decision. 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.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 09/25/19
Cheryl Lynn Williams v. SWS LLC d/b/a Securewatch
E2018-00922-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

Cheryl Lynn Williams (“Employee”) alleged that she sustained a compensable injury and/or an occupational disease as a result of exposure to mold during the course and scope of her employment with SWS LLC d/b/a SecureWatch (“Employer”). Employer filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the one-year statute of limitations barred Employee’s claim. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case. 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. Having determined that genuine issues of material fact exist concerning the commencement of the statute of limitations, we reverse the judgment and remand for proceedings on the merits.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 09/20/19
Teresa Adams v. Rich Products Corporation
W2018-00288-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davise
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joedae Jenkins

Teresa Adams (“Employee”), a general laborer at Rich Products Corporation (“Employer”) developed carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands. After two separate surgeries, Employee developed bilateral hand stiffness and deformity of her fingers. Due to the disparity between the impairment ratings assigned by her treating physician and the Independent Medical Examination (“IME”) physician, Employer sought review through the Medical Impairment Rating Registry (MIR) program. The MIR physician opined that Employee suffered from inflammatory arthritis unrelated to her employment. The IME physician disagreed with the MIR physician’s impairment rating and diagnosed Employee with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (“CRPS”). The trial court found that Employee rebutted the presumed accuracy of the MIR physician’s impairment rating by clear and convincing evidence. Employer has appealed alleging that the accurate impairment rating presumption was not rebutted. 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.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 08/30/19
Carol Nolan v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., ET AL.
W2018-01382-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge William B. Acree, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Michael Maloan

Carol Nolan (“Employee”) was employed by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (“Employer”). The trial court found that Employee was permanently and totally disabled following work-related injuries to her back and knees in April 2011. The trial court apportioned 85% liability of the award to Employer and 15% to the Tennessee Second Injury Fund. Employer has appealed the trial court’s finding that Employee is permanently and totally disabled and the apportionment of liability for permanent and total disability benefits. Employer’s 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. After review, we conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s decision. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 08/16/19
Natchez Trace Youth Acadamy Et Al v. Christopher Tidwell
M2018-01311-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

Christopher Tidwell (“Employee”) suffered facial injuries during the course of his employment at Natchez Trace Youth Academy (“Employer”) while restraining a resident during an altercation. Employee filed this workers’ compensation claim alleging both physical and psychological injuries resulting from the incident. After a trial, the court concluded Employee did not make a meaningful return to work and awarded benefits for physical and psychological injuries, using a 4.85 multiplier. Employer has appealed, claiming the trial court erred in concluding Employee failed to make a meaningful return to work; in awarding additional temporary benefits; in determining Employee suffered a compensable psychological injury; and in awarding certain 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. We affirm the trial court’s award of benefits beyond the statutory 1.5 cap, additional temporary benefits, and its finding of psychological injury. We reverse the award of certain discretionary costs.

Humphreys County Workers Compensation Panel 08/16/19
Corey Bunton v. Sanderson Pipe Corp. Et Al.
M2018-01028-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffery S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kenneth M. Switzer

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. This case arises out of an injury sustained by Corey Bunton (“Employee”) while working at Sanderson Pipe Corporation (“Employer”).  Employee’s hand became trapped in a beller machine which resulted in Employee losing a finger and sustaining permanent damage to his hand.  Employee claimed he turned the machine off prior to placing his hand into the machine to clean a pipe.  However, Employer presented evidence challenging Employee’s claim that he turned off the machine.  Employer argued by failing to turn off the machine, Employee committed willful misconduct which barred any recovery.  The trial court found Employee did not turn off the machine and therefore committed willful misconduct.  Employee appealed arguing the trial court erred in its willful misconduct analysis.  Employer also cross-appealed arguing that Tennessee Compilation Rules and Regulations 0800-02-21-.7 (2016) is unconstitutional. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Workers Compensation Panel 08/14/19
Tennessee Clinical School, LLC, D/B/A Hermitage Hall v. Jeffrey E. Johns
M2018-00985-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This 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. The trial court entered a final order that Employee was entitled to benefits. The trial court found that Employer failed to prove willful misconduct under Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-110(a)(1) because Employer failed to prove bona fide enforcement of its policy and that Employee had a valid subjective belief for violating said policy. We reverse the trial court’s finding that Employer failed to prove bona fide enforcement of its policy, but we affirm the trial court’s finding that Employee did not willfully violate Employer’s policy. As a result, we affirm the trial court’s judgment in favor of the Employee.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 08/02/19
Duwan Duignan v. Stowers Machinery Corp. et al.
E2018-01120-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela B. Johnson

The issue in this appeal is whether the evidence preponderates against the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims’ judgment that the employee is permanently and totally disabled due to his work-related injury. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, in a 2-1 decision, reversed and remanded for a determination of the amount of permanent partial disability. Mr. Duignan appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which referred the appeal to this Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51, § 1. We hold the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s judgment. Therefore, the decision of the Appeals Board is reversed and the judgment of the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims is reinstated.

Workers Compensation Panel 06/19/19
Kenneth M. Wright v. National Strategic Protective Services, LLC et al.
E2018-01019-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa A. Lowe

Kenneth M. Wright was employed by National Strategic Protective Services, LLC, as a security officer at the Department of Energy, Oak Ridge facility. While participating in a training exercise, he injured his neck, which required surgery. The trial court found Mr. Wright was entitled to increased permanent partial disability benefits pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-207(3)(B) and then awarded extraordinary benefits pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-242(a)(2). The employer has appealed the award of extraordinary 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Workers Compensation Panel 05/23/19
Ameenah House v. Amazon.Com, Inc.
E2017-02183-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas L. Wyatt

An employee filed workers’ compensation claims against her employer for alleged work-related back and leg injuries. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims (the trial court) ruled against the employee, finding that the employee failed to show that her alleged injuries were work-related. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board affirmed the trial court’s decision. The employee appealed. This appeal was referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. After careful consideration, we affirm the judgment of the Appeals Board and adopt its opinion as set forth in the attached Appendix.

Workers Compensation Panel 05/16/19
Shirley Keen v. Ingles Markets, Inc.
E2018-00306-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Elizabeth C. Asbury

In 1997, an employee sustained a workers’ compensation injury. In 1999, the chancery court approved a settlement of the claim, which in part required the employer to pay for reasonable and necessary future medical treatment. In 2016, the employer declined to provide certain treatment based on the results of a utilization review under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-124. The chancery court granted the employee’s motion to compel the medical treatment and held in abeyance her request for attorney fees under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(b)(2). The employee filed a second motion to compel because of a dispute about whether the first order to compel required the employer to provide the employee with a particular medication. The chancery court granted the second motion to compel and awarded the employee attorney fees, but in a lesser amount than the employee had requested. Both parties appealed. The employee contends that the chancery court erred in awarding attorney fees by failing to make findings based on the factors in Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 8, Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(a) (RPC 1.5(a)). The employer contends the chancery court erred by granting the second motion to compel treatment. 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 under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We vacate the chancery court’s award of attorney fees and remand for a determination of attorney fees in accordance with the factors set forth in RPC 1.5(a). We affirm the chancery court’s judgment granting the second motion to compel.

Campbell County Workers Compensation Panel 05/14/19
Jerry Coleman v. Armstrong Hardwood Flooring Company ET AL.
W2017-02498-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Allen Phillips

In this appeal from the judgment of the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims, the employer and its insurer argue that the employee did not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that his injury arose primarily out of the course and scope of his employment, and that the employee’s physician expert did not use an appropriate method to opine on the impairment rating for the employee’s right ear. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Workers Compensation Panel 04/12/19
Ricky Armstrong v. Armstrong Hardwood Flooring Company
W2018-00427-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge William B. Acree
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

Ricky Armstrong (“Employee”) alleged that he injured his lower back, neck, and left shoulder in the course and scope of his employment with Armstrong Hardwood Flooring Company (“Employer”). The trial court determined that Employee was permanently and totally disabled. Employer’s 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.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 04/05/19
Salvador Sandoval v. Mark Williamson, Et Al.
M2018-01148-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joshua Baker

Salvador Sandoval (“Employee”), an undocumented immigrant, suffered an injury while working for Tennessee Steel Structures (“Employer”). The parties settled the claim, and Employee failed to return to work at the end of the initial compensation period. Employee now seeks additional permanent disability benefits pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 50-6-207(3)(B) because Employee cannot return to work after the injury as he is not eligible or authorized to work in the United States under Federal Immigration Law. Employee challenges the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-207(3)(F) which does not allow for additional benefits set forth in subdivision (3)(B) for any employee who is not eligible or authorized to work in the United States. The Court of Workers’ Compensations Claims held that it had no jurisdiction to make this determination and denied Employee’s request for increased benefits. Employee appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel pursuant to Tennessee Rule of the Supreme Court 51 section 1. We affirm the judgment of the trial court and hold that Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-207(3)(F) is constitutional.

Workers Compensation Panel 03/28/19
Venture Express v. Jerry Frazier
W2018-00344-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge:
Trial Court Judge:

Jerry Frazier alleged that he sustained a compensable injury in the course of his work as a truck driver for Venture Express. The trial court held that Mr. Frazier’s January 29, 2014 accident at work caused his neck, back and mental injuries, that the 1.5 times cap on permanent disability benefits did not apply, and that Mr. Frazier was permanently and totally disabled. Venture Express 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.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 03/27/19
Stacy Clark v. Charms, L.L.C.
W2017-02552-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge William B. Acree
Trial Court Judge: Judge William C. Cole

Stacy Clark (“Employee”) alleged that she injured her back and left knee in the course and scope of her employment with Charms, L.L.C. (“Employer”). The trial court determined that Employee suffered a compensable injury to her left knee and awarded 21 percent permanent partial disability, temporary total disability, medical expenses, future medical expenses, discretionary costs, and attorneys’ fees. The court made no award for the injury to her back. Employer’s 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.

Lauderdale County Workers Compensation Panel 03/19/19
Donald R. Loveless v. City of New Johnsonville, Et Al.
M2018-00523-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

Donald R. Loveless (“Employee”) alleged he sustained a compensable injury on February 9, 2014, when he fell in the course and scope of his employment with the City of New Johnsonville (“Employer”). Following trial, the trial court awarded permanent partial disability benefits. Employer appeals, contending Employee did not sustain a compensable 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. We reverse the trial court’s judgment.

Humphreys County Workers Compensation Panel 02/15/19
Tina E. Hayes v. Costco and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
W2017-02130-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge:
Trial Court Judge:

Tina E. Hayes (“Employee”) alleged that she sustained a compensable injury to her left knee on April 8, 2015, in the course of her work as a stocker for Costco (“Employer”). She alleged that this injury required her to undergo a left knee replacement surgery. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims held that Employee failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence a compensable injury or aggravation arising primarily out of and in the course and scope of her employment with Employer. 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 02/12/19
Bettye Shores v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00954-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Ross H. Hicks
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

Bettye Shores (“Employee”) alleged she suffered a mental injury during the course and scope of her employment with the State of Tennessee (“Employer”) when a reprimand from her supervisor “lit up” her preexisting post-traumatic stress disorder. Employer moved to dismiss the claim, asserting Employee failed to give timely notice of her alleged injury as mandated by Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-201.  After a hearing, the Commissioner granted Employer’s motion to dismiss.  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 Commissioner’s judgment. 

Workers Compensation Panel 02/12/19
Mohammad Hamad v. Real Time Staffing Services, LLC, Et Al.
M2017-02538-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

In April 2011, Mohammad Hamad (“Employee”) was working at a Pillsbury factory through the defendant agency, Real Time Staffing Services (“Employer”), when he slipped on a wet floor and tore his left meniscus. After undergoing knee surgery, he returned to work at the factory. In September 2012, Employee once again was injured while lifting a heavy box. He sustained an injury to his left shoulder and an inguinal hernia. Employee has not returned to work since this second injury. Employee filed suit, arguing that he was totally and permanently disabled. The trial court found Employee only permanently partially disabled. Employee timely appealed, arguing that this Court should: (1) reverse and remand to the trial court to reconsider his contention that he is permanently and totally disabled under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-207(4)(B); (2) increase his disability award under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-242 (“the Escape Clause”); or (3) increase his disability award under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241. 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.

Rutherford County Workers Compensation Panel 01/30/19
Joe Butler v. Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool
E2017-01981-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

Joe Butler (“Employee”) alleged he developed invasive pulmonary aspergillosis due to his exposure to the aspergillus fungus during the course and scope of his employment with the Oneida Water Department (“Employer”).  After a trial, the court concluded Employee failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence his work activities were the proximate cause of his injury.  Employee appeals, arguing the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s findings. 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.  After review, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Scott County Workers Compensation Panel 01/16/19