By Jared S. Renfroe

In an effort to help our clients stay informed on legal issues affecting their business, Spicer Rudstrom’s attorneys strive to make sense of the complex challenges and recent legal developments in the ever-changing world of workers’ compensation law. Our attorneys summarize the cases handed down in the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board each week, providing insight on the recent legislation as a resource to employers across industries, as well as insurance providers and carriers.

Patrick Riley v. Group Electric, et al.                                               

Docket No. 2015-06-0886
State File No. 48657-2015
Filed July 5, 2016

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

The employee alleges that he injured his left hand and wrist on June 8, 2015, while working as a journeyman electrician. He testified that he was installing new wiring, and while stripping wires, his hand slipped, causing him to strike his left wrist against the disconnect box.

The employer offered no witness testimony to the contract Employee’s allegations. Rather, they relied on medical records from the emergency room from the next day, which reflect that the Employee “denie[d] injury,” that he complained of “wrist injury (pain w/o injury),” and that the mechanism of injury was “unknown” and that he had experienced pain and swelling in his left wrist for three days.  The emergency room record indicates that the injury was not work-related and that the diagnoses were arthritis and bursitis with possible gout of the left wrist.

In response, Patrick testified that he told the physicians and personnel at the emergency room that his left elbow had been sore for about three days but that he injured his left wrist at work.  He also testified that the emergency room recommended he see Dr. Dube for the follow-up to have fluid drawn off his wrist, but because he did not have insurance or $300 cash up front, he could not get this treatment.

The employer filed a Notice of Controversy stating that no medical records received supported compensability, but the Employee testified that the project manager came to the worksite “several weeks” after the alleged injury and told him to go to Concentra Medical Center. Concentra’s record indicates that the injury was the result of a direct blow and occurred while at work. They provided a panel, and Employee chose Dr. Rosa Stone.

The employee went back to Concentra, and the record noted that Employee got defensive when asked about his injury and states that the “[s]tory of injury and exam don’t seem to correlate very well.” Ultimately, he saw the panel physician, and it was noted that he injured his left wrist when he hit it on a piece of machinery on June 8, 2015, but causation was not addressed. An MRI was done on June 29th, but Patrick never got to discuss the results of the MRI with Dr. Stone because she refused to see him again.

Holding: The Appeals Board noted that the trial court was presented with documents and medical records regarding the treatment for the injury and the Employee’s testimony regarding how the injury occurred. The employer did not present any testimony from a supervisor or co-worker to discredit the version of the injury but rather relied solely on medical records.

The trial court found Employee credible and was aware of the discrepancies between the records and Employee’s version of how the injury occurred. They determined that Employee met the lesser evidentiary standard required at expedited hearings, and the Appeals Board found no error in the trial court’s order. Furthermore, the award for benefits was affirmed.

 

Jared S. Renfroe is an attorney for Spicer Rudstrom, PLLC. He focuses his legal practice on litigation throughout Tennessee. He concentrates primarily on premises liability, business and commercial representation, employment practices litigation, professional liability, insurance defense, and workers’ compensation.

 

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