Tennessee Supreme Court Affirms Permanent Partial Disability Benefits for Employee in Workers' Compensation Case

January 29, 2019

In a workers’ compensation case, the Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed an award of permanent partial disability benefits to Christopher Batey, an employee of Deliver This, Inc.  For its reasoning, the Court adopted the opinion issued earlier by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

In 2015, Batey sustained a back injury as a delivery driver for Deliver This, Inc.  He sought disability benefits in 2016 by filing a Petition for Benefit Determination with the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.  Following a compensation hearing, the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims determined that Batey should receive permanent partial disability benefits.  Batey filed a post-trial motion for prejudgment interest on the benefits awarded, but the trial court denied his motion.

Deliver This, Inc. and its insurer, Auto-Owners Insurance Company, appealed the disability award, and Batey appealed the trial court’s denial of prejudgment interest to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.  In an opinion filed February 6, 2018, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board held that the trial court erred in its application of the burden of proof for an employee under the relevant statute and in its interpretation of “pre-injury occupation” as provided in the statute.  However, the Appeals Board determined that these errors were harmless because Deliver This, Inc., failed to meet its burden under the statute.  The Appeals Board also affirmed the denial of prejudgment interest, stating that it could find no statutory authority for such an award.

Deliver This, Inc. and its insurer appealed the judgment of the Appeals Board.  The Supreme Court directed that the case bypass the normal procedure of first being heard by a Special Workers’ Compensation Panel and, instead, heard oral arguments itself from the parties in this case.  In a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appeals Board and adopted in its entirety the opinion of the Appeals Board.  

To read the Supreme Court’s opinion in Christopher Batey v. Deliver This, Inc., et al., as well as the opinion of the Appeals Board set forth in the Appendix, go to the opinions section of TNCourts.gov.