Case name: Sissom v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., No. M2011-00363-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. 06/20/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that a builder was not entitled to benefits for his shoulder pain because it stemmed from his congenital abnormalities.
What it means: In Tennessee, evidence that congenital abnormalities caused a worker's pain will undermine his claim for benefits.
Summary: A tire builder for a tire manufacturer was reaching overhead when his shoulder started to hurt. He told his team leader he was having pain, but he did not seek medical attention. A few days later, he was pulling on material to clear a jam from a tire machine when he heard his shoulder snap and had immediate numbness and tingling in his hand. His symptoms worsened. A neurologist diagnosed him with a brachial plexus stretch injury even though his MRI and EMG results were normal. A vascular surgeon stated that the builder's pain was caused by congenital abnormalities and did not have "any relationship with work trauma." The builder sought benefits. The Tennessee Supreme Court held that he was not entitled to benefits because his injury was not work-related.
The court concluded that the evidence showed that the builder's condition originated from his congenital abnormalities. The surgeon explained that the abnormalities caused him to feel arm fatigue and pain when raising his arm.
The surgeon acknowledged the possibility that a traumatic injury could have caused his symptoms, but the builder did not describe a traumatic incident. The builder reposted that his shoulder simply "started hurting" at work and the pain worsened when he was clearing a jammed machine several days later. Also, the neurologist's diagnosis of an injured brachial plexus was not supported by diagnostic testing.
The court also noted its concern for a 13-year delay in resolving the builder's claim.
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August 23, 2012
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