By Courtney S. Paterson
Douglas A. Buckner v. Eaton Corp., et al.
Docket No. 2016-01-0303
State File No. 70600-2015
Filed November 9, 2016
This is a case before the Appeals Board on an interlocutory appeal filed by the employer, and the dispute was whether the employee’s failure to provide timely notice of his work-related injury should be excused.
The employee alleged he suffered an injury to his low back on July 20, 2015. On July 21, the Employee told his Employer he had hurt himself the night before but was unsure how he hurt himself. He then testified that he did not report anything prior to September 2, 2015. The employee sought medical care on his own and underwent surgery for a herniated disc by Dr. Scott Hodges.
At an expedited hearing, the trial court concluded that the employee had failed to provide timely notice of his injury but that such failure was excused before he did not “immediately know the full nature and seriousness” of the injury.
The appeals board reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case. The Workers’ Compensation Law mandates that “[e]very injured employee . . .shall, immediately upon the occurrence of an injury, or as soon thereafter as is reasonable and practicable, give or cause to be given to the employer who has no actual notice, written notice of the injury.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-201(a)(1) (2015).
The statute additionally provides that “[n]o compensation shall be payable . . . unless the written notice is given to the employer within thirty (30) days after the occurrence of the accident unless reasonable excuse for failure to give the notice is made to the satisfaction of the tribunal to which the claim for compensation may be presented.”1 Id. (emphasis added). The notice must convey “in plain and simple language the time, place, nature, and cause of the accident resulting in injury.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-201(a)(2).
The notice requirement contained in section 50-6-201 “exists so that the employer will have the opportunity to make a timely investigation of the facts while still readily accessible, and to enable the employer to provide timely and proper treatment for the injured employee.” Jones v. Sterling Last Corp., 962 S.W.2d 469, 471 (Tenn. 1998).
The appeals board held that because this is not a case where symptoms developed gradually over time or were not immediately apparent, Employee was immediately aware he hurt his back at work and shortly thereafter was unable to function without assistance and unable to work for approximately two weeks. Based on these facts, the appeals board concluded that the employee’s excuse for failing to provide timely notice of his work injury was not “reasonable.”
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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