Employer's choice to obtain insurance diminishes percentage of liability
Case name: Garrett v. Brown, et al., No. M2009-02592-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. 03/15/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that a handyman was permanently and totally disabled and his employer was liable for 40 percent of benefits and the Second Injury Fund was liable for 60 percent.
What it means: In Tennessee, the Second Injury Fund must contribute to satisfy a worker's claim if the employer voluntarily elects to be bound by workers' compensation law, even if the employer had less than five employees and was a farmer.
Summary: A handyman's job duties consisted of general maintenance on a farm. He fell from the roof of a barn and sustained numerous fractures. He was unable to return to work due to constant pain. Although not required to do so, the employer had workers' compensation insurance. A doctor prescribed a brace for the handyman, which he opined decreased his pain. The doctor also thought the alteration of gait caused by the brace exacerbated the handyman's preexisting back problems. The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the handyman was entitled to permanent total disability benefits, paid 40 percent by the employer and 60 percent by the Second Injury Fund.
The fund contended that the employer was ineligible to receive contribution to satisfy the handyman's claim. The court disagreed, finding that the employer voluntarily elected to be bound by workers' compensation laws even though the employer was a farmer with less than five employees.
Next, the fund argued that the employer did not have knowledge of the handyman's preexisting conditions. The employer did not testify, but the handyman said the employer knew of his back condition and let him do lighter work. The handyman's wife, who also worked for the employer, said the employer did not make the handyman work when his back prevented him from working. The court said that evidence of a doctor's work restriction was not necessary to prove the employer's awareness of preexisting conditions.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 16, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications