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Two Recent Workers’ Comp Appeals Board Decisions

Two Recent Workers’ Comp Appeals Board Decisions

November 8, 2017

Summaries by: Courtney S. Paterson

William Baumgardner v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al.

Docket No. 2015-05-0619
Filed October 18, 2017
State File No. 89624-2014

Posture: This is a case before the Appeals Board on an interlocutory appeal filed by the employee, and the dispute was whether the employee suffered a permanent impairment rating as a result of a compensable work injury.

The employee alleged suffering injuries to his left knee on November 11, 2014 in his efforts to avoid an aggressive dog. Employer accepted the claim as compensable and provided a panel from which the Employee chose Dr. James Rungee. Dr. Rungee diagnosed a left knee injury with lateral collateral strain and a lateral femoral condylar contusion. He also diagnosed a medial meniscal tear that he opined pre-existed the work injury.  Following a functional capacity evaluation, the employee was capable of returning to work in the medium physical demand category. Based on the FCE findings, Dr. Rungee assigned restrictions of limited squatting and only occasional climbing. Because Dr. Rungee concluded the meniscal tear pre-existed the work accident, he did not consider this diagnosis in evaluating whether the employee retained any permanent impairment and instead concluded the work injury did not qualify for an impairment rating. Employee was evaluated by Dr. Stephen Neely who assigned an impairment rating. Dr. Neely acknowledged that he only presumed the permanent impairment was attributable to the work injury and he had no reason to question Dr. Rungee’s findings. The trial court afforded Dr. Rungee’s opinion the presumption of correctness and found that his opinion as to causation and permanent impairment outweighed that offered by Dr. Neely. As a result, the trial court declined to award permanent disability benefits.

The appeals board affirmed the decision of the trial court. The appeals board held that in the absence of a permanent medical impairment rating, there is not statutory mechanism by which the trial court can award permanent partial disability benefits.


Tonya Baker v. Electrolux, et al.

Docket No. 2017-06-0070
Filed October 20, 2017
State File No. 752513-2016

Posture: This is a case before the Appeals Board on an interlocutory appeal filed by the employee, and the dispute was whether the employee is entitled to a second authorized treating physician.

Employee alleged suffering injuries to her back on September 19, 2016 when she slipped and fell in water. Employer accepted the claim as compensable and provided a panel from which the Employee chose Dr. Daniel Burval. Employee became dissatisfied with Dr. Burval because she believed he was not being thorough and she did not like the way he examined her. The trial court ordered the Employer to provide a new panel of physicians to Employee.

The appeals board reversed the decision of the trial court. The appeals board found that there was no proof that Dr. Burval had declined to see the Employee or that she had made any attempt to continue seeing him. The appeals board further found that the Employer remains ready and willing to authorize additional reasonable and necessary medical treatment with Dr. Burval. Given these circumstances, they concluded that Employee has an authorized treating physician in compliance with TCA §50-6-204 and is not entitled to a new one. Finally, the board held that while the Employee may be dissatisfied with her panel selection, she has pointed to no authority that would require Employer to provide another panel of physicians under the circumstances presented.


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