The Tennessee Attorney General issued an opinion on April 17, 2012, concerning the constitutionality of requiring claimants receiving pain management treatment under the Workers’ Compensation Act to agree in writing to submit to random drug tests. According to the opinion, “A court would most likely find the drug testing provision . . . constitutionally suspect under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution.” Opinion No. 12-47.
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In Norwood v. Maytag Corp., (Tenn. W.C. Panel 4/30/2012), the employee injured his neck while working, which resulted in a “mood disorder . . . with major depressive-like episode.” Basically, the neck injury aggravated the employee’s pre-existing mental condition. The reviewing court upheld the trial court’s ruling that the employee was 95% permanently disabled.
The case of Buttrey v. Altria Group Inc., (Tenn. W.C. Panel 4/24/2012), is a good example of an important rule of law in Tennessee Workers’ Compensation cases. In Buttrey, the employee injured her neck while working in 2001. She treated conservatively and didn’t miss any work. In 2005, she again experienced neck pain with radiculopathy, but didn’t miss any work. In April of 2009, the employee was performing lifting activities at work and began to experience excruciating neck pain. An MRI revealed degenerative changes in the neck and a surgery was performed in August of 2009. The treating doctor testified that the employee had pre-existing degenerative disc disease that was exacerbated by her work activities in April of 2009. The employer hired a doctor who testified that there was no evidence of a work related injury or exacerbation. The Court ruled in favor of the employee (plaintiff), noting that lay testimony in conjunction with medical evidence was sufficient to establish the the employee’s work activities advanced the severity of her pre-existing degenerative disc disease in April 2009.