Supreme Court Re-Affirms Some Limits On Employer’s Reimbursement In Workers' Comp Cases

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Joshua Cooper v. Logistics Insight Corp., the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed two prior rulings in which it held that an employer’s subrogation right against an employee’s recovery from a third party in a negligence case does not include the amount of future medical benefits to be provided to the employee.

Mr. Cooper was an employee of MasterStaff, Inc., which assigned him to work at ProLogistics, Inc. Mr. Cooper was using a towmotor to move pallets from a trailer parked at a loading dock into the ProLogistics warehouse. An employee of ProLogistics moved the truck away from the dock as Mr. Cooper was backing out of the truck, and the towmotor fell out of the trailer. Mr. Cooper sustained “significant, permanent injuries” to his back and spine.

Mr. Cooper sought workers’ compensation benefits from MasterStaff and also filed a negligence claim in Rutherford County Chancery Court against ProLogistics and Logistics Insight Corp. MasterStaff intervened in the negligence action, asserting a statutory subrogation claim, including recovery of the amount of future medical benefits that it may be required to provide under the Workers’ Compensation Law.

Mr. Cooper settled his negligence claim against the defendants in Chancery Court and reimbursed MasterStaff for medical expenses paid on his behalf. MasterStaff asserted that the settlement did not dispose of all the claims regarding future medical expenses. The trial court disagreed and granted a motion to dismiss.  The Court of Appeals held that future medical expenses could be proven by MasterStaff and remanded to the trial court for a determination of the amount of future medical benefits.

Today, the Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeals and affirms the trial court, holding that an employer’s lien against an employee’s recovery from a third party provided by Tennessee Code Annotated §50-6-112 does not extend to the amount of future medical benefits to be provided by the employer.  In so doing, the Supreme Court reaffirms two prior decisions in which it held that the employer’s subrogation rights do not extend to the amount of future medical benefits.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice William C. Koch, Jr., suggests that the Court’s opinion is inconsistent with the plain language of the workers’ compensation statute that permits employees to recover directly from the persons who injure them. Justice Koch concludes that the two cases upon which the Court relies should be overruled for three reasons. First, they conflict with the purpose of the statute, which is to place the full financial burden on the person who injures the employee. Second, they are inconsistent with prior decisions interpreting the statute. And third, they incorrectly assume that future medical expenses cannot be calculated.

To read the Joshua Cooper v. Logistics Insight Corp. opinion authored by Justice Janice M. Holder and the dissent by Justice William C. Koch Jr. visit the opinions sections of TNCourts.gov.


Local Vapor Store Expands; Creates Premium Chattanooga-Inspired EJuices

After opening on June 12, the locally-owned Chattanooga Vapor Company has continued to thrive at its North Shore locations off of Frazier Avenue and in Soddy Daisy, at the corner of Dayton and Thrasher Pike. No matter where one falls within the company’s three-step process, they ensure each individual’s needs are met. Its focus on helping people quit smoking and using tobaccos is ... (click for more)

HTI Employment Solutions Job Fair Draws Over 500 Applicants And Counting

HTI Employment Solutions is holding its first job fair in Chattanooga on Thursday, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.   at Embassy Suites Hotel at 2321 Lifestyle Way near Hamilton Place Mall. The company was awarded the bid to staff 300 positions created by Tier 1 Automotive Supplier and will staff ... (click for more)

Lookout Mountain, Ga., Raises Sewer Rates; Joins In Kudzu Fight

The Lookout Mountain, Ga., City Council on Thursday night approved an increase in sewer charges. The council approved ordinance 281 increasing sewer rates to $6 per 100 cubic feet of water from the previous rate of $4.77.  The new increase will be in effect in January 2015.    City Manager Brad Haven said the town will be replacing the flow meter for ... (click for more)

Police Investigating An Armed Robbery On Friday Night At UTC

UTC Police are investigating with the Chattanooga City Police an armed robbery in Lot 4 near Boling Apartments on Friday night. The suspects are described as two black men.  One was six feet tall, wearing a navy jacket, with medium skin tone and short hair.  The other suspect was reported to be 5’ 7”, wearing blue jeans and a long white T-shirt. The second suspect ... (click for more)

Don't Allow Us To Be Overrun By People Who Do Not Belong Here - And Response (6)

Thank you, Senator Corker, for your clear, concise evaluation of the president's attempt to bypass Congress and personally and independently establish national policy that violates our current immigration laws.   Our long-standing failure to enforce our laws to control illegal immigration across our southern border has made this country less safe and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Tubman Goat-Roping

Every spring there comes a bright day on the ranch when the straw-boss decrees a goat-roping should take place. What really happens is the veteran cowboys arm the greenhorns with some lariats late in the afternoon and take them to the pen that holds some Billy goats. This is before they get into bigger beasts -- horses and cattle – yet what appears to be easy most certainly is not. ... (click for more)