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Watters v. Nissan N. Am., Inc. – Workers’ Compensation Appeals

Watters v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., an appeal from the Supreme Court of Tennessee’s Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel at Nashville, involved claimant who was injured while working at an automobile manufacturing plant.

factory-2-1396494-m.jpgClaimant was working for employer at an automobile plant in 2006, when he first started to notice an odd fatigue in his arms and shoulders while on the job. One day in January 2007, he felt a sharp pain in his right arm. He immediately reported this incident to his supervisor and went to see an orthopedic surgeon for diagnosis and treatment.

His doctor first examined him on January 17, 2007 and determined the best course of action for claimant was physical therapy and work restrictions. His employer reassigned claimant to work at a collet retainer machine, which did not require heavy lifting. His doctor also referred him to another doctor who specialized in physical rehabilitation. There was a concern claimant was suffering from a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome or had problems with his cervical spine. This new doctor ordered an MRI, and an EMG. The results of both tests were normal.

Claimant was then referred to a neurosurgeon in April 2007. This doctor looked for something known as a “surgical lesion” in his neck, and, when one wasn’t found, he determined claimant had classic symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. Employee went back to work on the collet retainer until the pain go to the point where he could no longer work at all, and he left work on April 11, 2007.

In May 2007, claimant was referred to a vascular surgeon who confirmed claimant suffered from bilateral thoracic syndrome and removed a portion of claimant’s first rib as treatment for his work-related injury. When this proved only partially successful in alleviating claimant’s pain, his doctor could have performed the same procedure on the right side, but opted not do so.

In September 2007, a neurologist ordered an MRI of claimant’s neck. This MRI revealed a herniated disc in claimant’s cervical spine. He was then seen by another neurosurgeon who fused the herniated disc. This initially proved helpful at relieving claimant’s pain, but his pain came back over time. In 2009, another x-ray was taken, which showed two vertebrae had not been properly fused. A second surgery was performed, but claimant continued to have pain in his neck. At this point he was referred to a pain management specialist who treated him until the time of his workers’ compensation trial.

During trial, employer’s insurance company argued claimant had failed to show his injury was work-related and not simply a medical condition. Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain employers or their insurance companies will typically try to argue an injury was due to a preexisting condition and was not work-related.

Trial judge agreed with defendant and found claimant had only suffered an 80 percent disability to part of his body from the thoracic outlet syndrome, but the spinal issues were not work-related. Claimant appealed finding his total disability was not work-related, and employer appealed the 80 percent award for partial disability, claiming it was excessive.
On appeal, the court only looked at whether trial court’s findings were reasonable and did not review the facts anew. Ultimately the court determined trial court’s conclusions were properly supported by evidence and affirmed the ruling.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Watters v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., March 20, 2015, Supreme Court of Tennessee’s Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel at Nashville

More Blog Entries:
City of Danville v. Tate: Workers’ Compensation Double Recovery, Jan. 25, 2015, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog