Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court
Chaney v. Team Technologies, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court denying Employer’s motion to dismiss Employee’s action seeking workers’ compensation benefits for injuries she received from Employer’s failure to use its automated external defibrillator (AED) while Employee suffered a non-work related medical emergency, holding that Employer was not liable for workers’ compensation benefits under the circumstances. Employee collapsed at work because of a medical condition unrelated to her employment. Employer had acquired an AED but did not use it to assist Employee while awaiting emergency medical responders. Employee brought suit, alleging that Employer’s failure to use the AED and its failure to train or hire an employee able to use an AED delayed resuscitation efforts, causing Employee to sustain a brain injury. The trial court denied Employer’s motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee’s claim did not arise out of her employment because Employer provided reasonable medical assistance and had no statutory or common law duty to use its AED to assist Employee. View "Chaney v. Team Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. Tennessee National Guard
Plaintiff’s claim brought against Defendant pursuant to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, 38 U.S.C. 4301 to 4335 (USERRA), accrued prior to July 1, 2014 and remained barred by sovereign immunity. In 2014, the General Assembly enacted a statute waiving Tennessee’s sovereign immunity for claims bought against the State pursuant to USERRA. The waiver of sovereign immunity became effective on July 1, 2014 and applied to USERRA claims accusing on or after that date. Relying on this newly enacted statute, Plaintiff brought a USERRA claim against Defendant, an entity of the State, based on facts that occurred prior to August 8, 2014. the trial court dismissed the claim, concluding that the claim remained barred by sovereign immunity because it accrued prior to July 1, 2014. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff’s cause of action accrued on July 1, 2014 when Plaintiff gained a judicial remedy by the enactment of the statute waiving sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s claim accrued prior to July 1, 2014. View "Smith v. Tennessee National Guard" on Justia Law
Tennessee Department of Correction v. Pressley
A “preferred service” state employee does not have a protected property interest in his or her employment, and the State did not bear the ultimate burden of proof in a post-termination administrative appeal under section 8-30-318 of the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability, and Management Act of 2012 (TEAM), Tenn Code. Ann. 8-39-101 through -407. After the Tennessee Department of Correction (Petitioner) dismissed David Pressley from his employment as a correctional officer, Pressley challenged his termination under the TEAM Act’s appeals process. The Board of Appeals reinstated Pressley at Step III of the appeals process. The chancery court reversed, concluding that the Board erred in determining that the State bore the ultimate burden of proof in the Step III appeal. The court of appeals, in turn, reversed, determining that preferred service state employees have a protected property interest in their employment and that the Board correctly assigned the ultimate burden of proof. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the Board, holding (1) preferred service employees do not possess a property interest in their continued employment with the State; and (2) the Board erred when it assigned the ultimate burden of proof to the State to sustain Pressley’s termination for cause. View "Tennessee Department of Correction v. Pressley" on Justia Law
Kilburn v. Granite State Insurance Co.
Charles Kilburn was injured in a motor vehicle accident and underwent surgery to resolve his neck injury complaints. Charles took oxycodone to alleviate his back pain. Several months after his surgery, Charles died due to an overdose of oxycodone combined with alcohol. The chancery court found that the death was compensable and awarded workers’ compensation death benefits to Judy Kilburn, Charles’s wife. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the chancery court, holding that Charles’s failure to take his medication in accordance with his doctor’s instructions ultimately caused his demise, and therefore, his death was no longer causally related to his work-related injury, and his overdose was an independent intervening cause. View "Kilburn v. Granite State Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Hardy v. Tournament Players Club at Southwind, Inc.
Employee asserted a private right of action against Employer under the Tennessee Tip Statute, Tenn. Code Ann. 50-2-107, for Employer’s failure properly to pay tips, gratuities, and service charges. The trial court granted Employer’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on the ground that there was no private right of action under the statute. The court of appeals reversed based in part on a 1998 court of appeals opinion, Owens v. University Club of Memphis, recognizing a private cause of action under the Tip Statute. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and affirmed the trial court’s judgment, holding (1) Owens is inconsistent in part with subsequent Supreme Court jurisprudence on implying a private right of action under a statute, and therefore, this Court declines to apply the doctrine of legislative inaction to presume that the legislature knew of the holding in Owens and acquiesced in it; and (2) Owens is overruled to the extent that it is inconsistent with the Court’s holding here that an employee has no private right of action under section 50-2-107. View "Hardy v. Tournament Players Club at Southwind, Inc." on Justia Law
Emory v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education
Rogelynn Emory, a full-time tenured teacher in the Memphis City School System, was terminated after the Memphis City Schools Board of Education concluded after a hearing that there was ample evidence of Emory’s unsatisfactory job performance. Emory subsequently filed a petition for judicial review. The trial court affirmed the Board’s decision. The Court of Appeals declined to reinstate Emory based on the untimeliness of the school board hearing but awarded her partial back pay. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision to upheld the termination of Emory’s employment and clarified the standard of judicial review for the termination of a tenured teacher under the Tenure Act, holding (1) the Court of Appeals’ award of partial back pay was without basis in the Teachers’ Tenure Act; and (2) because Emory failed to raise before the school board any objection as to the timeliness of her hearing, that issue was not properly before the Supreme Court. View "Emory v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education" on Justia Law
Stacey v. Nissan N.A., Inc.
Employee was terminated because of an altercation with an employee of a contractor at Employer’s wellness center. After his termination, Employee sought reconsideration of his three workers’ compensation claims. The trial court determined that Employee was entitled to reconsideration and awarded additional permanent disability benefits, concluding that Employer had not sustained its burden of proof that Employee’s misconduct was connected with his employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Employee was entitled to reconsideration of his previous award and settlements because the conduct that resulted in his termination was not connected with his employment; (2) the trial court’s erroneous evidentiary rulings constituted harmless error; and (3) the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that Employee was entitled to additional permanent disability benefits. View "Stacey v. Nissan N.A., Inc." on Justia Law
Evans v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Co.
Employee worked for Employer from 1977 through the date of the trial of this matter. Employee began having problems with his arms and hands in 2005. In 2009, Employee had carpal tunnel release surgery performed on his arms. Employee began having problems with his right thumb shortly after his surgeries. A surgical procedure to release the thumb was performed in 2010. In 2013, the trial court awarded permanent partial disability benefits to Employee but ruled that Employee’s injury should be apportioned to the arm, which was subject to an impairment “cap.” Employee appealed, arguing that the award should have been apportioned to the thumb, which was not subject to the cap. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the trial court correctly chose to apportion Employee’s injury to the arm. View "Evans v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Co. " on Justia Law
Westgate Smoky Mountains at Gatlinburg v. Phillips
Claimant was a licensed time-share salesperson who sold time-share interests at a resort. After resort management terminated the business relationship with Claimant, Claimant filed for state unemployment benefits. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development awarded benefits to claimant, concluding that the "qualified real estate agent" exclusion in the Tennessee Employment Security Law's definition of employment did not preclude Claimant from receiving unemployment benefits because Claimant was not a licensed real estate agent. The appeals tribunal and board of review affirmed. The chancery court reversed, determining that a time-share salesperson is a licensed real estate agent and therefore, Claimant was ineligible for unemployment benefits as a qualified real estate agent. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, holding (1) a time-share salesperson is a licensed real estate agent within the Employment Security Law's qualified real estate agent exclusion; (2) Claimant satisfied the exclusion's criteria and was therefore a qualified real estate agent; and (3) consequently, Claimant was ineligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits. View "Westgate Smoky Mountains at Gatlinburg v. Phillips" on Justia Law
Mansell v. Bridgestone Firestone N.A. Tire, LLC
Employee suffered a right shoulder injury while working for Employer. After a benefit review conference in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development ended in an impasse, Employee filed suit for workers' compensation benefits. Prior to trial, Employer requested the appointment of an independent medical examiner pursuant to the medical impairment rating (MIR) process in Tenn. Code. Ann. 50-6-204(d)(5). Because the suit had already been filed, the trial court denied the request and subsequently awarded compensation to Employee. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for consideration of the constitutionality of the MIR process. On remand, the trial court concluded (1) section 50-6-204(d)(5), which requires the courts to consider the opinion of an independent medical examiner under that section as presumptively accurate, is an unconstitutional infringement upon the powers of the judiciary; and (2) in the alternative, the statutory presumption was overcome in this case. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the MIR process does not violate constitutional principles; and (2) the evidence in this case did not clearly and convincingly rebut the statutory presumption. Remanded. View "Mansell v. Bridgestone Firestone N.A. Tire, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Tennessee Supreme Court