Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TWCA Reviews Whether Trial Court Properly Apportioned Liability in a Case Involving Permanently-Disabling Injuries


In this workers' compensation action, the employee, Roy McGaha, sustained a work-related back injury in June 2004, while employed by the Cocke County Highway Department. He was able to return to work, and his claim for benefits was settled within the one and one-half times impairment cap contained in Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-241(a). He alleged that he sustained a new compensable injury to his back in November 2007. The county denied the claim, asserting that Mr. McGaha did not sustain a new injury, but that his condition was the result of his earlier injury, and his remedy was, therefore, limited to reconsideration of his previous settlement.

The trial court held that a new injury occurred in 2007 and that Mr. McGaha was permanently and totally disabled as a result of it. The court assigned 76% of the liability for the award to the county and 24% to the Second Injury Fund. The county has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred by finding that Mr. McGaha sustained a new injury and by finding that he was permanently and totally disabled. The Fund asserts, on appeal, that the trial court used an incorrect method to apportion liability.

We affirm the award of benefits. We conclude, however, that the trial court did not use the correct method of apportioning liability between the Fund and the county. That portion of the order is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings with regard to that issue.

Opinion may be found at:

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