Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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A group of sergeants employed within the county sheriff's office were paid varying amounts within an established pay range. The sergeants filed a grievance regarding the pay disparities. The sheriff's department civil service board upheld the grievance and ordered the sheriff to equalize the pay of all the sergeants in the sheriff's office. On appeal, the county chancery court declared the board's ruling null and void, holding that the board did not have the authority to order pay equalization. The court of appeals agreed that the board exceeded its statutory authority but remanded the cause to the board so it could direct the sheriff to pay all sergeants the same hourly rate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in the absence of proof that the sheriff violated state law or the sheriff's department civil service manual, the board lacked the power to order salary equalization; and (2) the board exceeded its authority in ordering the sheriff to correct the pay disparity, as there was no proof the sheriff violated state law, and the civil service manual specifically gave the sheriff authority to make individual pay determinations. View "Hammond v. Harvey" on Justia Law

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Employee fell while working for Employer and sustained a shoulder fracture. Employee subsequently filed a workers' compensation action. The trial court concluded that Employee had sustained a compensable injury during the course of her employment and awarded benefits to Employee. Employer appealed, arguing that Employee failed to carry her burden of proving the required causal connection between the employment conditions and the injuries she sustained as a result of her fall. Specifically, Employer contended that Employee's injuries resulted from an idiopathic fall and not from any hazard incident to her employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court's conclusion that Employee sustained a compensable injury arising out of her employment. View "Vandall v. Aurora Healthcare, LLC" on Justia Law

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Employee injured his back while working for Employer. Employee and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (Department) agreed upon a settlement that provided for a lump sum payment to Employer for his injuries. The settlement and SD-1 form were signed by Employee and both parties' attorneys. Two years later, Employee filed a petition to set aside the settlement. The trial court granted Employee's petition. The Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel vacated the trial court's judgment on a procedural issue, finding the SD-1 form was not "fully completed." The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the Panel and of the trial court and dismissed Employee's petition, holding (1) when the Department approves a settlement, it implicitly approves the accompanying SD-1 form, and a court has no authority to set the settlement aside based on its independent finding that the SD-1 form was not "fully completed"; and (2) the evidence preponderated against the trial court's finding that Employee was not represented by counsel, and the court erred in granting relief based on Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(5) as well as its inherent authority. View "Furlough v. Spherion Atlantic Workforce, LLC" on Justia Law