Shaky medical testimony topples claim for permanent disability benefits
Case name: Thomison v. Yates Services, LLC, No. M2009-01556-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. 07/08/10, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that a first knee injury was compensable but a second injury was not. There was no medical evidence showing the worker's fall at work caused the increased impairment of his knee.
What it means: When medical testimony does not establish that a work-related incident could be the cause of a condition, an employee may not be awarded permanent partial disability benefits.
Summary: A worker at an automobile assembly plant suffered a compensable injury to his left knee. Two years later, he twisted his leg and fell as he stepped over a conveyer belt. He stated he had immediate pain in his left knee, but he finished working and went to the plant medical office on his lunch break. The plant testified that the worker denied that an injury occurred. The worker went to his doctor on the same day, and the doctor testified that the employee complained of swelling he had for three days but reported no injury. Nonetheless, the doctor ordered an MRI and excused the worker from work for a week. Approximately 10 days after the MRI results, the worker's attorney notified the plant of a possible new injury. The Tennessee Supreme Court awarded the worker 15 percent permanent partial disability for the first injury and dismissed the worker's claim of benefits for the second injury.
The plant argued that the second injury was noncompensable. The court decided that there was no evidence establishing a causal relationship between the event and the increased impairment. None of the doctors who testified could say that the second injury "could be the cause" of the worker's knee condition even though one doctor who evaluated the employee twice increased the employee's impairment rating after the second injury.
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September 23, 2010
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