Medical opinions support permanent total disability award for manager
Case name: High v. Sumner County, No. M2010-01899-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. 07/21/11).
Ruling: The Tennessee Court of Appeals held that a manager was entitled to permanent total disability benefits.
What it means: In Tennessee, a worker may be entitled to permanent total disability benefits if his doctors initially opine that he was partially disabled but later conclude that he was totally disabled.
Summary: A parts department manager for a county injured his back and leg while lifting a 100-pound hydraulic motor for a spindle. He underwent surgery and returned to work. He reinjured himself while pushing a 50-pound box with his foot. He underwent another surgery. His doctor imposed permanent restrictions on his physical activity that included light duty with no repetitive bending or lifting and no operation of machinery. The manager did not return to work because the county could not accommodate his restrictions. The Tennessee Court of Appeals held that the manager was entitled to permanent total disability benefits.
His doctor opined that he had a 20 percent permanent physical impairment to the whole person. Later, the doctor wrote a letter stating that he doubted that the manager would ever return to work. The manager's pain management physician also thought he was not able to perform any type of work. The county adopted an occupational compensation plan to provide benefits to injured workers. The county offered the manager a lump sum of $64,064 in accordance with the plan's provision for permanent partial disability. The manager rejected the offer.
The court pointed out that the manager's doctors opined that he was "totally disabled" and would not ever return to "any functioning work." The county relied on the doctor's letter indicating a 20 percent impairment. The court said that the manager's doctors initially may have thought he was only partially disabled but later concluded that he was totally disabled. Therefore, a different provision of the plan had to be used to determine the manager's benefits.
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September 27, 2011
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