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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Aug 11, 2014

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

R. Steven Waldron (at trial and on appeal) and Terry A. Fann and Benjamin L. Parsley, III (at trial), Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cha Yang.

Attorneys 2:

Randolph A. Veazey and Janis O. Mize, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Nissan North America, Inc. and Ace American Insurance Company.

Judge(s): WADE

The employee suffered bilateral shoulder injuries in January and March of 2008. After undergoing separate surgeries on each shoulder, the employee agreed to a voluntary buyout of his employment. Later, he filed suit for workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court awarded temporary total disability benefits and assessed a 90% permanent partial disability award after determining that the employee’s permanent partial disability benefits were not capped at one and one-half times the impairment rating. The employer appealed and, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, the case was referred to a Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel. The Panel ruled that the employee’s benefits should have been capped at one and one-half times his impairment rating and reduced the award of permanent partial disability benefits to 37.5%. We granted the employee’s motion for full Court review and have determined that because the employee acted reasonably by accepting the voluntary buyout for reasons related to his work injuries, the award for permanent partial disability is not subject to the one-and-one-half-times cap. The judgment of the Panel is, therefore, modified to the extent that the trial court’s award for permanent partial disability benefits is reinstated, but otherwise affirmed.