By Courtney S. Paterson
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.
Shane Smiley v. Four Seasons Coach Leasing, Inc., et al.
Docket No. 2016-06-0104
State File No. 2435-2016
Filed July 15, 2016
Posture: This is a case before the Appeals Board on an interlocutory appeal filed by the employer, and the dispute was whether the employee was an employee of the employer or an independent contractor, whether he suffered a compensable injury and whether the employer should be required to provide medical benefits.
The employee alleged he was injured while operating a touring coach during a 19-day concert tour. While driving, he alleged pain in his shoulder, left hip, and lower back, which he attributed to a defective and/or poorly-maintained seat and rough road conditions. The company that owned the coach denied that the claimant was an employee, denied that he sustained a compensable injury, and argued that, even if he suffered a compensable injury, the artist’s tour management company was the responsible employer under the loaned servant doctrine.
The tour management company also denied the claim, arguing that the claimant was not a loaned servant and that he was an independent contractor. The trial determined that the leasing company was the responsible employer and ordered it to provide medical benefits.
The Appeals Board affirmed the trial court’s decision. The trial court determined that Claimant was an employee of Four Seasons, the company that owned the coach. In so holding, the trial court considered the Claimant’s primary job functions, which included driving the coach, cleaning the coach, maintaining the coach, and arranging service and maintenance of the coach during the tour as needed. Each of these functions was directed by Four Seasons and was not under the control of Live Soul, the tour Management Company, or the Claimant.
In addition, the trial court determined the claimant suffered a compensable injury. Four Seasons asserts that Claimant failed to come forward with sufficient evidence that he suffered a compensable injury “caused by a specific incident, or set of incidents, … identifiable by time and place of occurrence,” as defined in the statute. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-102(14) (2015). In the definition of “injury,” the legislature made clear that a “set of incidents” that is “identifiable by time and place of occurrence” can constitute an “injury by accident.”
A “set of incidents,” by definition, cannot occur instantaneously but must occur over some time. Thus, to establish a compensable injury by accident, an employee need not prove a single, sudden event accompanied by the immediate onset of pain or other symptoms but can meet his or her burden at an expedited hearing by presenting evidence from which the trial court can determine he or she is likely to prove a compensable set of incidents over an identifiable period. Here, Claimant described specific symptoms that developed and increased in intensity over an identifiable period while operating the coach.
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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