Case name: Blake v. Nissan North America, Inc., No. M2009-02173-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. 11/10/10, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that a worker had a meaningful return to work. The court modified the amount of benefits awarded.
What it means:
In Tennessee, an employee who returns to work but later retires and resigns for personal reasons or reasons that are not reasonably related to his workplace injury has had a meaningful return to work for workers' comp purposes.
Summary: An assembly line worker for a car manufacturer developed carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger in his right hand. The injury was accepted as compensable. After surgery, the worker returned to full-time work in his regular job for 18 months. At that time, his work week was reduced from 40 hours per week to 32 hours as part of a plant-wide reduction. Later, he voluntarily left his job in exchange for a payment offered by the manufacturer to reduce its workforce. The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the employee had a meaningful return to work and awarded 6 percent permanent partial disability benefits for the right arm.
The court stated that the employee clearly sustained a loss of income after he made a meaningful return to work. The loss of income was not related to his work injury, but was due to a plant-wide reduction in hours for the purpose of saving jobs. The court considered a new law that was passed while the suit was pending that demonstrated legislative intent that a general reduction in wages caused by economic conditions and undertaken for the purpose of saving jobs will not automatically open previously capped settlements for reconsideration. The court applied a lower cap to the award of benefits.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
January 20, 2011
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