KIMBERLY WHEELER v. WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION (TWCA February 3, 2010)
In this workers' compensation action, the employee, Kimberly Wheeler, sustained repetitive trauma injuries to both arms. The injuries were accepted by her employer, Whirlpool Corporation, as compensable. After having surgery on both arms, she returned to work, initially in a light-duty status, and later to full duty. The product line on which she worked was then shut down and moved to another location. She was offered the option of accepting a voluntary layoff or moving to another product line. She chose the voluntary layoff. Under the terms of her employment contract, she continued to be an employee although she was not working. Eventually, the entire plant closed and Ms. Wheeler was terminated at that time. The trial court found that she had meaningful return to work and voluntarily left her employment. For that reason, it limited its award of permanent partial disability benefits to one and one-half times the anatomical impairment in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(d)(1)(B). The employee has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by applying the one and one-half times impairment cap. We agree and modify the judgment.
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