Tennessee: 2009 Spinal Condition Was “New or Advance” Injury, Not Just Due to Aging

Tennessee: 2009 Spinal Condition Was “New or Advance” Injury, Not Just Due to Aging

A special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel of the Supreme Court of Tennessee has held that in cases involving pre-existing conditions, the law does not weigh the relative importance of the pre-existing condition and an employment-related cause, nor does it look for primary or secondary causes. The law merely inquires whether the employment was a contributing factor.  If so, the concurrence of the pre-existing condition or personal cause does not defeat compensability.  Where a worker, therefore, suffered a spinal injury in 2002, for which he had surgery in 2003, and continued to have some residual symptoms thereafter, but no actual medical restrictions thereafter, a state trial court was not in error to find that a November 2009 herniated disc, and the resulting disability, was work-related and that the employee should be awarded temporary total and permanent partial disability benefits. Citing Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the special panel agreed that there had been no mere natural progression of the worker’s prior condition, unrelated to his work activities.  While workers were not entitled to workers' compensation benefits for the effects of the aging process or for the progression of an illness or disease that was not work-related, the employer took the employee "as is" and assumed the responsibility of having a pre-existing condition aggravated by a work-related injury which might not affect an otherwise healthy person.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Bean v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 2014 Tenn. LEXIS 359 (Apr. 30, 2014) [2014 Tenn. LEXIS 359 (Apr. 30, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 10.01 [10.01]

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

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