Monday, June 25, 2012

TN Supreme Court reviews whether an employee's injuries were compensable based on whether he refused to follow a safety rule


The trial court awarded workers’ compensation benefits to an injured lineman who had violated a rule requiring the use of protective gloves while in a bucket lift. The employer appealed, contending that the statutory defenses of willful misconduct and, more particularly, the willful failure or refusal to use a safety appliance or device precluded recovery.

The appeal was referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-225(e)(3) (2008). After oral argument before the Panel, but before the Panel filed its opinion, the case was transferred to the full Court.

Because the evidence establishes that the employee admitted his knowledge of a regularly enforced safety rule, understood the rationale for the rule, and willfully (rather than negligently or recklessly) failed to comply, the injuries he suffered because of the rule violation are not compensable. The judgment of the trial court is, therefore, reversed and the case is dismissed.

Majority opinion available at:

Justice Holder's dissenting opinion is available at:

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