Tennessee Supreme Court Upholds Compensation Finding in Chemical Exposure Case

crates-and-forklife-53463-mThe Tennessee Supreme Court, in a special Workers’ Compensation Appellate decision, Peek v. Tri-Green Equipment, LLC, (2014), had before it a complex medical appeal following a workplace chemical exposure and resulting medical condition.

In the case, the employee was working in his capacity as a forklift driver and forklift operator when he and another worker attempted to pour a chemical fungicide into a machine. While attempting to pour, the chemical spilled somehow and got onto the employee’s shirt, pants, and arms.

Following the incident, the employee stated that the chemical had a strong odor that made it difficult to breathe. Once home, he changed clothes and rinsed off the remaining residue. Eventually, however, the employee ended up in the emergency room seeking treatment for breathing difficulties. He ended up being admitted and remained hospitalized for 43 days, which included 18 days on a mechanical ventilator for respiratory failure.

Some time later, the employee was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. The cause of the type of condition is currently unknown, although the doctor in the case testified that she did not believe it was attributable to the chemical exposure. Later, however, a subsequent physician believed that the employee’s resultant breathing issues were due to an irritation to the lungs caused by inhaling the chemical, and that the prior diagnosis of the incredibly rare immune disorder was unlikely.

The trial court heard evidence, both from the employee’s expert, claiming his injury was a result of the exposure, and from another expert, arguing it was not. The trial court found that the employee suffered a compensable injury as a result of the exposure, and that he sustained an 85% partial permanent disability due to that injury. Judgment was rendered accordingly.

The employer appealed the case, arguing that the employee’s injuries were not attributable to the chemical exposure, but rather to some other etiology.

On appeal, the court reviewed the competing testimony regarding the nature of the employee’s exposure. It found that the employee had no condition prior to the exposure, and that his medical symptoms began immediately following the incident. Thus, the court found that the trial court could have justifiably found that the employee’s medical condition was a direct result of the exposure.

Therefore, the court ruled that the evidence was not inconsistent with the trial court’s findings, and thus the judgment was affirmed.

The personal injury attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard are dedicated to representing Nashville residents who have been hurt due to someone else’s negligent actions. We serve injured individuals in and around Davidson and Williamson Counties, including in Brentwood, Bellevue, and Hermitage. Our skilled attorneys will take the time to learn about you and your case, and we will vigorously pursue your right to compensation. Contact us today to discuss your case.

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