Nashville, Tn (WorkersCompensation.com) - The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that an employee is entitled to the full amount of workers’ compensation benefits awarded to him by a trial court.
In 2009, Orville Lambdin retired from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company where he had worked as a tire builder for over 35 years. He later sought workers’ compensation benefits based upon his loss of hearing. At trial, Lambdin testified that he had difficulty hearing the television and car radio, that he could not hear normal conversations if he was surrounded by background noise, and that he experienced ringing in his ears. Expert medical testimony established that Lambdin’s hearing loss was caused by the noisy work environment at Goodyear.
The trial court initially awarded Lambdin 10% permanent partial disability benefits based upon a .9% anatomical impairment rating. After Lambdin asked the trial court to reconsider its ruling, the trial court increased the award to 30% disability benefits based upon a 20% impairment rating. The discrepancy in the two impairment ratings was a result of measuring Lambdin's hearing losses at different sound frequencies. Goodyear appealed, arguing that the trial court should not have considered evidence of the higher impairment rating as a basis for the increased award of benefits.
The Supreme Court affirmed the amended award for 30% disability benefits. The Court pointed out that the type of high-frequency, noise-induced hearing loss suffered by Lambdin was not covered by the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, but that expert testimony had established an appropriate alternative method for calculating such high-frequency losses. Because the evidence clearly supported the trial court’s findings that Lambdin suffered a hearing impairment and expert testimony established the higher rating, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial court had properly increased Lambdin’s award of benefits to 30% permanent partial disability.
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