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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Aug 20, 2013

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Daniel C. Todd, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; and Alexander S. Reiger, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

William J. Butler and E. Guy Holliman, Lafayette, Tennessee; and Debbie C. Holliman, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellee, William H. Mansell.

Judge(s): WADE

After a benefit review conference in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development failed to produce a settlement, the employee filed suit for workers’ compensation benefits. Because the suit had already been filed, the trial court denied a request by the employer for an independent medical examination pursuant to the medical impairment rating (“MIR”) process in Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-204(d)(5) (2008 & Supp. 2012). After hearing all other proof relating to the claim, the trial court awarded compensation to the employee and questioned the constitutionality of the MIR process. The employer appealed; the Attorney General filed a brief as amicus curiae; and this Court vacated the judgment and remanded the cause for additional proceedings. On remand, the Attorney General was added as a defendant to address the constitutional issue. The trial court considered additional evidence, which included an MIR report by an independent medical examiner, and ruled that section 50-6-204(d)(5), which requires our courts to consider the opinion of an independent medical examiner appointed under that section as presumptively accurate, is an unconstitutional infringement upon the powers of the judiciary. In the alternative, the trial court held that the statutory presumption of the accuracy of the report, if compliant with constitutional principles, was overcome by the other medical evidence, and that the employee was entitled to a 10% permanent impairment rating rather than the 7% rating in the MIR report. In this appeal, the employer and the Attorney General argue that the statute meets constitutional standards. We hold that the MIR process does not violate constitutional principles, and we further find that the evidence did not clearly and convincingly rebut the statutory presumption. The judgment of the trial court is, therefore, reversed in part, and affirmed and modified in part. The cause is remanded for additional proceedings consistent with this opinion.