By Courtney S. Paterson

James Neal v. Connect Express, LLC, et al.            

Docket No. 2016-06-1872     

State File No. 65631-2016

Filed January 30, 2017

Posture

This is a case before the Appeals Board on interlocutory appeal filed by the employer, and the dispute was whether the employer should be required to provide the employee medical benefits.

The employee alleged multiple injuries when the vehicle he was driving rolled over while he was negotiating a curve on an interstate exit ramp. His employer denied his claim on the basis that he willfully violated a safety rule. The parties stipulated that the injuries arose out of the course and scope of the employment. The primary issue at the expedited hearing was whether the employer established the affirmative defense of willful misconduct. The safety rule in question was a general rule that the employer’s representative testified required drivers to “follow the rules of the road.”

At the expedited hearing, the employer attempted to introduce into evidence the affidavit of the police officer who investigated the scene of the accident and the affidavit of an engineer who reviewed the truck’s on-board event data recorder to determine the cause of the accident. These affidavits were offered as expert proof, and the employee objected to their admission into evidence on the basis that the affidavits were not submitted timely in accordance with the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims’ Practices and Procedures and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s regulations. The employee also objected to their admission on the basis of hearsay, on the basis that he was unable to cross-examine the witnesses, and on the basis that the employer had not adequately established that the affiants were experts qualified to testify regarding the cause of the accident. The trial court took the objections under advisement and in its order awarding benefits, excluded consideration of the affidavits based upon their untimely submission. The trial court ordered the employer to provide a panel of physicians and temporary disability benefits, finding the employer had failed to establish the affirmative defense of willful misconduct.

The appeals board affirmed the trial court’s decision, finding that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s decision.

 

 

An associate with Spicer Rudstrom since 2009, Courtney focuses her practice on automobile liability, insurance coverage litigation, insurance defense litigation, insurance subrogation, premises liability, products liability and workers’ compensation. She is admitted to practice in all trial and appellate state courts in Tennessee, as well as the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

 

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