Opinions of the Supreme Court Panel | News for the workers compensation industry

Opinions of the Supreme Court panel

As in previous years, I like to start the month of January with a look back at last year’s notices of appeal. This article will summarize the 2021 opinions of the Tennessee Supreme Court Workers’ Compensation Select Committee. In subsequent articles, we will return to the work of the Appeal Board last year.

Don’t forget to read the reviews yourself! Because what I see in a case may not be your view. And remember, these are the thoughts of a staff attorney, not the judges of the Workers’ Compensation Claims Court. The purpose of this article is just to make you want to read these reviews again.

With that being said, let’s dive right in. The committee issued 11 opinions, four of which were from the Workers’ Compensation Tribunal. We will start with these opinions.

Post-reform law

In Shelton v. Hobbs Enterprises, the Panel asserted somewhat curtly. The trial court ruled that the employee failed to prove causation based on the attending physician’s opinion that it was “a bit difficult to tell” whether the alleged work incident had contributed to his condition, but that “[i]”It’s certainly possible,” the incident aggravated his current shoulder condition. The committee wrote that the employee claimed she tore her rotator cuff “no less than six times” in her brief, but medical evidence showed she did not, and her Counsel also incorrectly cited pre-Reform Act case law.

Jumper c. Kellogg Company is another case in which the Committee was quite direct. The employee argued that the presumptions of accuracy attached to an attending physician’s causation opinion and impairment assessment are contrary to the statutory provision that the law must be interpreted fairly, impartially and do not favor either the employee or the employer. The committee concluded that this argument was “without merit” and that the legal presumptions were apparently neutral.

The committee then upheld the trial court’s decision that the employee failed to prove medical causation because her testimony was based in part on assumptions that were not supported by the evidence.

The Commission adopted the opinion of the Appeals Board in two cases.

First, in Nickerson v. was not diagnosed until 2018. The Appeal Board reviewed in detail the definition of “date of injury”, claims for cumulative trauma, mental injury and occupational disease, and ultimately concluded that the date of the injury was 2011, before the creation of the Court. , he therefore lacked jurisdiction.

Second, in Boutros v. Amazon.com DEDC, the Board upheld a decision of the Compensation Trial Court and rejected the employer’s contention that the court could ignore some of the medical evidence submitted by the employer and, at the same time, accept other parts of the medical evidence from the same medical provider.

Pre-reform law

With respect to cases from state trial courts, Garner v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is an interesting read. The Committee upheld – with some skepticism – a trial court’s decision that hearing loss was compensable. The panel observed that none of the parties’ physicians supported their opinions with “specific medical evidence” and that the employee’s testimony, while “not particularly compelling”, “hardly tipped the scales” in its favor.

The panel then reversed the trial court’s decision by admitting into evidence an impairment rating for high-frequency hearing loss derived outside of the AMA guides. The doctor’s “flat method” was not “used and accepted by the medical community”, the committee found, because the doctor supported his opinion with a single scientific paper, which was not commented on, expanded or adopted by any other medical organization.

In another case where medical causation was disputed, the employee in Paris v. McKee Foods Corp. argued, and the panel agreed, that the trial court erred in applying the principle of independent intervening cause to absolve his former employer of liability for continuing benefits under the settlement of a claim anterior. The employee had been subject to lifting restrictions, which the lower court found to have been negligently exceeded. The committee concluded that since this conduct did not result in a “further injury or aggravation”, but merely increased pain, the independent cause principle does not apply.

Consideration of reasonably necessary treatment and use was discussed in Coblentz v. Stanley Black & Decker. The employee requested additional treatment – Botox for headache relief – after settling his claim. The employer denied, relying on a utilization review report concluding that the treatment was not reasonable or necessary, which the medical director confirmed. The trial court found that the employer had rebutted the presumption of reasonable necessity. The committee upheld, finding that the employee had again insisted on his need for the proposed treatment, but that the employee had not responded to the medical director’s justification.

Two cases involved permanent total disability. In Hopper v. UGN, the employer challenged the trial court’s finding that the employee was permanently and totally disabled, claiming that he only suffered a permanent impairment of 2-3%. The trial court credited the testimony of the employee and his professional expert, which the employer did not refute, so the committee had little difficulty in asserting.

The panel also upheld the standing total ruling in Cummings v. Express Courier International, as well as the finding that the employer was entitled to social security compensation. As for the latter decision, the panel agreed that the compensation does not apply where the injury relates to a listed member, but the trial court concluded that the injury relates to the body. The Committee also rejected the employee’s argument that the employer failed to prove that the employee’s social security benefits were attributable to employer contributions.

Finally, two opinions have turned, to the detriment of employees, towards their inaction. Coincidentally, they involved the same employer.

In Memphis Gas Light & Water Division v. Nesbit, the committee reversed a trial court’s finding that the employee had timely notified his injury. In April 2013, the employee reported an acute knee injury. He was told he needed knee replacement surgery, which was not work-related, so private insurance covered the procedure. The employee met with an attorney in the summer of 2014, who wrote a letter requesting the surgeon’s causation opinion. In December, the surgeon opined that the need for surgery was due to repetitive work.

The committee concluded that the employee was “at the latest advised that he may have a compensable injury when he met with his lawyer in the summer of 2014”, and that he did not have to wait for the doctor. the notice to the employer was untimely.

In Pearson v. Memphis Gas Light & Water Division, the panel found that the employee filed his lawsuit more than a year after discovering his injury, so it was time-barred.

The employee first underwent surgery for a spinal cord condition in 2014 and underwent a second surgery in 2016. Subsequently, in September 2016, his attorney received a letter from the surgeon linking the surgeries at work, but he did not file the claim until October. 2017. The Committee rejected the claim that the day the employee’s lawyer told him about the letter was the day he discovered the accident at work, rather than the day the lawyer received information.

By Jane Salem

Courtesy of Tennesse Workers Compensation Claims Tribunal


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Warning: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writing from a variety of workers’ compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.

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