Supreme Court Upholds Workers Compensation Law

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

 In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a workers’ compensation law that gives priority to the opinion of an independent medical examiner for the purpose of determining the disability rating from a work-related injury.

 

In 2008, William Mansell injured his shoulder while working for Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire.

Two doctors evaluated Mansell’s condition but reached different conclusions about the degree of permanent impairment from his injury. One found that Mansell suffered a three percent impairment; the other assigned a ten percent impairment, which, if approved by the court, would result in significantly greater benefits. Because Mansell and Bridgestone could not reach an agreement through administrative means, the case went to trial.

 

Bridgestone asked the trial court to appoint an independent medical examiner for a third opinion, relying on the law that allows for such an appointment when the employer and employee cannot agree on the degree of impairment. The trial court denied the request, holding that the law, by declaring the independent evaluation as “presumptively correct,” improperly infringed upon the power of the court to determine which of the opinions was entitled to more credibility.

 

In the meantime, Mansell agreed to be evaluated by an independent medical examiner, who found there to be a seven percent impairment. After considering the content of the report, the trial judge held that even if the law did not meet constitutional standards, the evidence that Mansell had a ten percent permanent impairment was sufficient to overcome the presumption in the law.

 

On appeal to the Supreme Court, both Bridgestone and the Tennessee Attorney General defended the constitutionality of the law. Bridgestone further contended that the trial court should have applied the seven percent rating of the independent medical examiner because Mansell had not provided the proof necessary to overcome the presumption.

 

The Supreme Court concluded that the law did not violate principles of due process and did not constitute an infringement by the legislative branch upon the exclusive powers of the judiciary. While holding that Mansell was entitled to an award of benefits, the Court held that, because he had not submitted clear and convincing evidence as required by the law to contradict the presumption of correctness given to the independent medical opinion, he was limited to a recovery based upon the seven percent disability rating.

 

To read the Mansell v. Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLCopinion, authored by Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, visit TNCourts.gov.


Michelle Consiglio-Young Joins Courts As Legislative Liaison, Assistant General Counsel

   Michelle Consiglio-Young has been named legislative liaison and assistant general counsel for the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. In this role, she will be drafting and tracking legislation for the judiciary, following other proposed legislation, assisting members of the General Assembly with information about Tennessee courts, informing members of the ... (click for more)

Supreme Court Affirms Disability Award For Employee With High-Frequency Hearing Loss

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that an employee is entitled to the full amount of workers’ compensation benefits awarded to him by a trial court. In  2009, Orville Lambdin retired from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company where he had worked as a tire builder for over 35 years. He later sought workers’ compensation benefits based upon his loss of hearing. At trial, ... (click for more)

Appeals Court Rules Against WWTA In Lawsuit Brought By Apartment Complex Over $8 Monthly Charges To Units

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an apartment complex that sued the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Authority (WWTA) over an $8 monthly charge per apartment unit for preparing private service laterals. The court overturned a granting of summary judgment in favor of WWTA by former Judge Jackie Bolton. The appeals court said American Heritage Apartments, ... (click for more)

1 Dies In House Fire In Rhea County

Rhea County Fire Department officials said one person died in an early-morning house fire on Saturday. The call came at about 6:30 a.m. The brick residence is on Fisher Road. S tate arson investigators were on their way. (click for more)

It's Time To Insure Tennessee - And Response

Tennessee has a problem.  What is the value of saving the lives of 1,000 Tennesseans each year? That is exactly what can be expected if 176,000 Tennesseans gain health insurance through Insure Tennessee. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that expansion of Medicaid was associated with a 6% reduction in yearly mortality for people in the 34-65 age group. Statistically, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Boots, Idiots & Guns

As the month of February was born this morning, allow me to hurriedly share three leftovers that were still in last month’s basket: * * * A first-grade teacher had endured a long day and was helping her students bundle up for the trip home when one of the little boys asked for help getting on his boots. Soon she could see why. Even with her pulling, and him pushing, the ... (click for more)