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Case Law

Mon, Apr 18th, 2011
Tennessee Workers' Compensation Panel Decisions for 2nd Quarter of 2011

Cases posted the week of 4/11/2011
Cheryle Darlene Goodwin v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al -
M2010-01134-SC-WCM-WC View
White County - 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. The employee sustained a compensable injury. She returned to work for her employer in the same job, at the same hourly wage. However, her earnings were reduced because she declined offers of additional work, which she had usually accepted before her injury. She declined these offers because she could no longer safely perform them. The trial court held that she did not have a meaningful return to work, and awarded benefits in excess of one and one-half times the impairment. Her employer has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by finding that she did not have a meaningful return to work. We affirm the judgment.

Betty Graham v. Sequatchie Valley Emergency Medical Services, Inc., et al -
M2009-02444-SC-WCM-WC View
Marion County - The employee filed a pro se post-judgment petition alleging that her employer had improperly denied court-ordered medical benefits to her, and she sought damages. Her employer moved to dismiss based upon expiration of the statute of limitations and other grounds. The employee contended that she was incompetent for an extended period of time after the alleged denial of medical care and that the limitation period was therefore tolled. The trial court held that her petition was barred by the statute of limitations and dismissed it. The employee has appealed from this decision. We affirm the judgment.

Jeffrey White v. Nissan North America, Inc., et al -
M2009-02189-SC-WCM-WC View
Rutherford County - 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. Jeffrey White (“Employee”) sustained work-related injuries while employed by Nissan North America, Inc. (“Employer”). He returned to work after each injury and settled both claims. In 2005, he was terminated, allegedly for failure to comply with Employer’s policies concerning medical leave. He filed for reconsideration of his previous settlements, as permitted by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6- 241(a)(2). Employer contended that he had been terminated for misconduct and was not eligible for reconsideration. Following a full trial, the trial court found that Employee was eligible for reconsideration, but that Employee failed to prove that his industrial disability was greater than the amount of the settlements. Employee filed a motion to alter or amend pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 59.04, requesting that the trial court permit the taking and presentation of additional evidence. The trial court granted the motion. After a second trial, the trial court awarded additional permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits. Employer has appealed. We conclude that the trial court erred in granting the motion to alter or amend and reverse the judgment.

Michael C. Massey v. Nissan North America, Inc. -
M2010-00151-SC-WCM-WC View
Wilson County - 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 alleged he sustained an injury to his back in the course and scope of his employment. After Employee had back surgery, he returned to work for five months, then resigned his employment and received a lump sum payment offered by Employer for the purpose of reducing its workforce. Employee claimed that he was unable to continue performing his job due to back pain. Employee filed suit against Employer seeking worker’s compensation benefits. Employer denied that the claim was compensable and asserted that the employee had made a meaningful return to work. The trial court found that Employee had suffered a compensable injury and did not have a meaningful return to work. The trial court awarded Employee 35% permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits. Employer has appealed. We affirm.

Richard Blankenship v. Ace Trucking, Inc., et al -
M2010-00597-SC-WCM-WC View
Humphreys County - 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. In 2002, the employee was involved in a motor vehicle accident in the course and scope of his employment. The employee filed suit for benefits. The employer disputed the claim, asserting that the employee had failed to give proper notice and had not sustained any permanent injury as a result of the accident. The trial court awarded benefits, and the employer has appealed. After careful review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Stanley Jenkins v. Yellow Transportation, Inc., -
M2009-02471-SC-WCM-WC View
Rutherford County - 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. In this action, Stanley Jenkins (“Employee”) sustained a compensable injury to his left leg in the course and scope of his employment with Yellow Transportation, Inc. (“Yellow Transportation”). Employee settled his workers’ compensation claim with Yellow Transportation and returned to work. A few months later, Yellow Transportation merged with another corporation to create YRC Inc. (“YRC”), a completely new corporation. After the merger, Employee was laid off due to an economic downturn and thereafter sought reconsideration of his earlier settlement. The trial court ruled that Employee was no longer employed by his pre-injury employer after the merger and was entitled to reconsideration under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241. The trial court awarded him additional permanent partial disability benefits. Yellow Transportation has appealed, arguing that Employee is not entitled to reconsideration. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Kathleen Evans v. Shaw Industries Group, Inc., -
M2009-02588-SC-WCM-WC View
Franklin County - 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. Kathleen Evans (“Employee”) alleged that she sustained an injury to her knee while at work. Her employer, Shaw Industries, (“Employer”) denied the claim, contending that the injury could not have happened in the manner described by Employee. The trial court held that Employee had a compensable injury and awarded permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits. Employer has appealed. We affirm the judgment.

Kara Barnes v. Pinnacle Foods Group, LLC, et al. -
W2009-01995-SC-WCM-WC View
Madison County - In this workers’ compensation action, the employee sustained bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of her employment. She had two surgeries on her left arm to treat the condition. Prior to reaching maximum medical improvement, she voluntarily retired. The trial court found that her retirement was reasonably related to her work injuries, and therefore the statutory limit to permanent partial disability benefits contained in Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(A) did not apply to her award. The employer, Pinnacle Foods Group, appealed. We affirm the judgment 1 of trial court.

Loyd Davis v. Praetorian Insurance Company -
W2010-00438-SC-WCM-WC View
Hardin County - Employee, a truck driver, sustained an on-the-job injury during a motor vehicle accident. The treating physician assigned 7% anatomical impairment to the body as a whole due to the injury. Employee’s evaluating physician assigned 17%. The trial court adopted the latter impairment and awarded 60% permanent partial disability. The employer has appealed.1 We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dion Jones v. Melissa Rodriguez, et al. - M2010-00366-SC-WCM-WC View
Rutherford County - 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. After the employee sustained an on the job injury, she sued her employer for workers’ compensation benefits. She alleged that her employer was a subcontractor for the principal contractor but she sued only the employer, not the principal contractor. Nearly two years later, the employee requested and received the trial court’s permission to amend her complaint to add the principal contractor as a defendant. The principal contractor filed a motion to dismiss based upon the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court granted the motion. After a trial, the trial court awarded the employee judgement for workers’ compensation benefits against the employer. The employee appealed, contending that the trial court erred by granting the principal contractor’s motion to dismiss. We affirm the judgment.