By Jared S. Renfroe

David Young v. Young Electric Co. 

Docket No. 2015-06-0860

State File No. 39751-2015

Filed September 14, 2016

Summary

This recent Appeals Board case regards whether an employee is entitled to temporary disability benefits. It presents a situation not commonly seen—an employee is off work for a long period of time receiving unauthorized medical treatment, and an issue arises concerning whether he is entitled to temporary disability benefits when a doctor states that he should have been off work or on limited duty for the entire time or a portion of the time. The Appeals Board reversed the trial court’s order, holding that the employee had failed to come forward with sufficient evidence that he would likely prevail at a hearing on the merits.

Facts

Employee allegedly sustained an injury when he was lifting a shopping cart containing construction materials. The claim was denied by the employer, and an expedited hearing was held. At the first expedited hearing, the Court held that Employee was entitled to medical benefits but not temporary disability benefits because he had not presented sufficient evidence that he was likely to prevail on the merits on the temporary disability benefits issue, as there was no medical proof regarding any restrictions assessed by the treating physician.  Subsequently, Employee obtained a letter from the treating physician,  which stated that Employee was either unable to work at all or full duty since the injury and that he should avoid overhead activities. However, Employee had worked for another employer doing essentially the same job functions as he was pre-injury, and he worked about 74 hours per week. He filed a subsequent Motion to Compel Temporary Disability Benefits with the Court. At that hearing, the Court held that he was entitled to temporary partial disability benefits for two distinct periods: 1. His last day worked for Employer through his first date working at a subsequent employer and 2. From the date he lost his job at the subsequent employer until the present time or until he is returned to work, whichever comes sooner. Employer appealed.

Holding

The Appeals Board reversed the trial court’s order, holding again that Employee had not presented sufficient evidence that he was likely to succeed at a hearing on the merits. The Appeals Board highlighted that there was no medical proof in the record concerning Employee’s ability to work during the time periods in question other that the treating physician’s letter and that Employee did not present to Employer any medical record or note indicating that he had restrictions assigned by a physician, depriving Employer of any opportunity to make a meaningful decision to accommodate whatever restrictions may have been imposed for the time periods in question. Additionally, the Appeals Board noted that the physician’s letter was unclear as to whether it was his opinion that Employee was unable to perform any work or whether Employee was able to perform limited duty work from his date of injury, and it pointed out that Employee had in fact worked for a different employer for more than 70 hours per week during the time in which the physician opined that he could not work or could only work limited duty.

 

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

 

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