By Courtney S. Paterson

Norvin Sevilla-Palma v. Wauford Air Conditioning, et al.  

Docket No. 2016-05-0242
State File No. 17382-2016
Filed August 30, 2016

Summary
This case involves an employee who suffered an injury to his right eye arising primarily out of and in the course and scope of his employment. The employer denied the claim, asserting as an affirmative defense that the employee willfully failed or refused to use a safety device. The employee was not wearing safety goggles or other personal protective equipment. The trial court denied the employee’s expedited request for benefits, relying primarily on its assessment of the credibility of the witnesses to determine that the employer was likely to prevail at a hearing on the merits in establishing the elements of its affirmative defense. Specifically, the trial court found parts of the employee’s testimony “not credible” and found the testimony of the employer’s witness “steady, forthcoming and reasonable.”

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

Details
This appeal involves an employee who suffered an injury to his right eye arising primarily out of and in the course and scope of his employment. The employer denied the claim, asserting as an affirmative defense that the employee willfully failed or refused to use a safety device. The employee was a sheet metal worker for the employer. While working to replace an air conditioning unit at a medical facility, a foreign object—believed to be a metal shaving—entered the employee’s right eye. The employee was not wearing safety goggles or other personal protective equipment at this time. The trial court denied the employee’s expedited request for benefits, relying primarily on its assessment of the credibility of the witnesses to determine that the employer was likely to prevail at a hearing on the merits in establishing the elements of its affirmative defense. Specifically, the trial court found parts of Employee’s testimony “not credible” and found the testimony of the Employer’s witness “steady, forthcoming and reasonable.”

The appeals board affirmed the trial court’s decision. The appeals board found that the law is clear that “[w]hen the trial court has heard in court testimony, considerable deference must be afforded in reviewing the trial court’s findings of credibility and assessment of the weight to be given to that testimony.” Sirkin v. Trans Carriers, Inc., No. 2015-08-0292, 2016 TN Wrk. Comp. App. Bd. LEXIS 22, at *8-9 (Tenn. Workers’ Comp. App. Bd. May 9, 2016) (quoting Tryon v. Saturn Corp., 254 S.W.3d 321, 327 (Tenn. 2008)).

 

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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