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Tennessee high court overturns comp disability award, cites lack of proof

Tennessee high court overturns comp disability award, cites lack of proof

The Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel with the Supreme Court of Tennessee on Friday overturned a 44% permanent partial disability rating given to a 42-year-old truck mechanic with degenerative spinal issues who couldn’t prove an injury at work caused his disability.

The man injured himself in 2012 while carrying an oil-drip pan with a co-worker who had dropped his side of the pan, causing the man to fall, injuring his neck and left arm, according to documents in Thomas D. Flatt v. West-Tenn Express Inc., filed in the state Supreme Court in Jackson, Tennessee. One year prior, the man had been in a work-related car accident, from which he claimed he had recovered from when he was injured while carrying the oil pan, documents state.

A trial court ruled that the 2012 injury was compensable, citing medical testimony and stating “it is illogical that … after the well documented accident in this case, somehow magically, the (employee’s) impairment problems arise from the 2011 accident."

On appeal, the trucking company had the employee undergo examination by four doctors, arguing “the trial court erred in finding a compensable injury because Employee ‘failed to prove that he suffered any anatomical change due to the (2012) work incident.’”

One doctor testified that the man’s pain was inconsistent with medical imaging tests. Another doctor testified that he “found no objective evidence of any neurological issues that could correspond with [Employee's] symptomology." 

A three-judge panel with Tennessee’s highest court, reviewing medical evidence and testimony from four doctors, ruled: “The relevant inquiry is whether Employee established a new, distinct injury or an advancement of a preexisting condition as a result of the … 2012 incident. Having reviewed the evidence, we conclude he did not. As a result, we reverse the trial court's judgment and find it unnecessary to review the trial court's award of 44 percent permanent partial disability.”



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