Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Truck Driver Deviated From Employment by Leaving Vehicle to Obtain Object for Purposes of Assaulting Driving Partner

Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Truck Driver Deviated From Employment by Leaving Vehicle to Obtain Object for Purposes of Assaulting Driving Partner

Larson's Spotlight on Deviation From Employment, Unexplained Fall, Physician's Opinion and Videotape Evidence, and Sanctions for Costs. Larson's surveys the latest case developments that you need to know about. Thomas A. Robinson, the staff writer for Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, has compiled the list below.

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TN: Truck Driver Deviated From Employment by Leaving Truck to Search for Object With Which to Assault Driving Partner

Indicating that while a reviewing court was statutorily required to review the trial court's factual findings "de novo upon the record," it was also to give "considerable deference" to the trial court's findings of fact based upon its assessment of the testimony of witnesses it heard at trial, a special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court of Tennessee recently affirmed a finding by the trial court dismissing a truck driver's complaint against a former employer to recover workers' compensation benefits for an alleged injury where the trial court determined that the driver, who worked as part of a two-person driving team, stopped the vehicle in a remote location, got out of the truck, and set upon a personal mission to obtain an object with which to assault his driving partner.  The court acknowledged the conflict in evidence-the injured driver claimed that he sustained injuries as he tried to reenter the truck and that the driving partner was otherwise going to leave him in the Arizona desert-but noted that the trial court had found the injured driver's testimony not to be credible.

See Eady v. Commodore Express, Inc., 2012 Tenn. LEXIS 156 (Mar. 8, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 130.05.

TN: Court Affirms Denial of Benefits Related to Unexplained Fall to Level Floor

"A fall by an employee while at work, where neither the cause of the fall nor of the resulting injury bears any special relation to the work or to the conditions under which it was performed, though it arises 'in the course of' the employment, does not arise 'out of' the employment" [Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 7.04].  Where the cause of the fall is either unknown or due to some personal, non-occupational condition (heart disease, stroke, epileptic seizure, fainting spell, or the like), the basic rule is that the effects of such a fall are compensable if the employment places the employee in a position increasing the dangerous effects of such a fall, such as on a height, near machinery or sharp corners, or in a moving vehicle.

In a recent case from Tennessee, the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel affirmed a finding by a state trial court that dismissed an employee's action seeking workers' compensation benefits where the employee fell to the floor, hit his head on the floor, and sustained a brain hemorrhage. The panel held that the employee failed to prove the causal connection between the fall and work conditions. The evidence merely showed that there were several potential causes for the employee's fall. Some causes were related to the employee's work; others were unrelated to the work. The evidence did not support a conclusion that any one of the potential causes was more likely than not the actual cause of the fall and, therefore, the cause of the employee's injury. The evidence showed that the fall occurred in an open area, that it was unlikely the employee either slipped or tripped, and that he struck his head on the floor, but not upon any objects. Although there was some mention of a greasy or slippery area nearby, the testimony of the employee's co-workers refuted that theory. For further discussion of this case, see http://www.workcompwriter.com/tennessee-employee-denied-benefits-for-unexplained-fall-to-level-floor/

See Byrom v. Randstad N. Am., L.P., 2012 Tenn. LEXIS 152 (Mar. 8, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 7.04, 9.01.

OH: Physician's Opinion Was Not Equivocal Where Physician Modified Opinion in Light of Videotape Evidence of Injured Worker's Capabilities

A physician's opinion was not equivocal in spite of the differences between the physician's original opinion and that expressed in an addendum where the physician explained the reason and rationale for the change-the physician viewed video surveillance which showed the worker using his left hand without limitations.  A physician is not precluded from reevaluating his or her opinion in light of new evidence presented to that physician.

See State ex rel. Clark v. Industrial Comm'n, 2012 Ohio 937, 2012 Ohio App. LEXIS 824 (Mar. 8, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 130.06.

FL: Judge May Not Sanction Homeless Claimant for Failure to Pay Prevailing Party Costs-Failure to Pay Was Not Willful

A Florida appellate court recently reversed a decision by a judge of compensation claims that had dismissed an injured worker's claim for benefits as a sanction for nonpayment of an earlier award of prevailing party costs-the worker had been directed to reimburse the employer/carrier in the earlier proceeding in the amount of $7,162.  Noting that the evidence suggested the worker had been homeless for three years and did not have the ability to pay the taxed costs, the appellate court indicated the JCC could only enter the sanction where the worker's conduct was willful, deliberate or "contumacious."  Here, the JCC specifically found the worker's failure to comply with the order to pay costs was not willful and the record supported that finding.

See Jones v. Royalty Foods, Inc., 2012 Fla. App. LEXIS 3855 (Mar. 12, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 135.02.

Source: Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, the nation's leading authority on workers' compensation law.

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