Resignation resulting from scheduling dispute triggers cap on PPD benefits
Knollwood Manor v. Cox, No. M2008-00151-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. Work. Comp. 11/20/08).
The Tennessee Supreme Court, Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel upheld the trial court's findings that a certified nursing assistant's injury arose out of her employment but reversed its finding that she did not make a meaningful return to work. The panel capped her permanent partial disability benefits at 1 1/2 times her medical impairment rating and modified the award accordingly.
Summary: A certified nursing assistant was injured when her car continued to roll as she was getting out of her car in the employer's parking lot. It rolled over her legs, resulting in a fractured ankle and bruising. The trial court found that the injury was compensable even though it occurred while the employee was on her way to work, as she planned to walk from her car to a van to attend a work-related seminar. The trial court also found that the employee's PPD benefits were not subject to a statutory cap because she had not made a meaningful return to work. It awarded her 99.6 percent PPD to the body as a whole.
The panel agreed that the injury was compensable but found that the employee's resignation was not related to her injury. It capped her PPD award at 1 1/2 times the 11 percent impairment rating assigned by an independent orthopedic surgeon.
The employee's treating orthopedic surgeon released her to return to work without restrictions within three months of the accident. However, an independent orthopedic surgeon assigned an 11 percent impairment rating to the lower extremities and assigned permanent restrictions.
The employee acknowledged that she resigned over what she felt was retaliatory scheduling, which required her to work several weekends in a row, including Christmas and New Year's Day. Because her resignation was unrelated to her work injury, the panel concluded that the trial court erred in finding that she had not had a meaningful return to work. Her PPD benefits therefore had to be capped at 16.5 percent to both legs.
January 12, 2009
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