Limited job skills, permanent restrictions entitle worker to permanent disability
Case name: Isbell v. Jimmy Dean Foods, No. W2009-00378-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. 08/16/10).
Ruling: The Tennessee Supreme Court held that a worker sustained a compensable injury and she was entitled to 30 percent permanent partial disability benefits.
What it means: In assessing the extent of a worker's vocational disability, Tennessee courts consider the worker's skills and training, education, age, local job opportunities, anatomical impairment rating, and the worker's capacity to work at the kinds of employment available in her condition.
A worker operated a machine that produced sausage links in a food processing plant. While working, she began to experience a sharp pain in her right side and chest. Her physician determined that she had a repetitive motion pain and placed her on several permanent restrictions such as lifting no more than 20 pounds, no repetitive motion, and no pushing or pulling. The employer was unable to accommodate the worker's restrictions, and the worker was terminated after being on leave status for a year. The worker sought benefits. The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the worker sustained a compensable injury and that she was entitled to 30 percent permanent partial disability benefits.
The employer contended that the worker did not sustain a compensable injury. The court stated that the evidence showed that the worker had an acute onset of pain while at work and that all of the physicians who testified stated that her symptoms were consistent with the activities required by her job.
The parties also disputed whether the worker was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits. The worker pointed out that her doctor placed permanent restrictions on her, and her symptoms limited her ability to perform many routine tasks of daily living. The worker was 44 and had a high school diploma. Her prior jobs involved manual labor, and she had limited transferrable job skills. The worker had not been employed since being terminated.
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November 22, 2010
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