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Posted by: Landry Butler on Jun 20, 2017

Court: TN Workers Comp Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Brian J. Rife and Daniel I. Hall, Bristol, Virginia, for the appellants, Transco Lines, Inc., and Triangle Insurance Company.

Attorneys 2:

Robert Bates and Tony Seaton, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellees, James Russell and Elizabeth Russell.

Judge(s): MCCLARTY

The issue in this workers’ compensation appeal is whether a Tennessee trial court had subject matter jurisdiction over a workers’ compensation claim. James and Elizabeth Russell, residents of Johnson City, Tennessee, were employed by Transco Lines, Inc. (“Employer”), an Arkansas company headquartered in Russellville, Arkansas. The Russells, who were team truck drivers, were injured on July 5, 2013, in a motor vehicle accident near Shreveport, Louisiana. Employer and its insurer. Triangle Insurance Company (“Insurer”), accepted the Russells’ workers’ compensation claims as compensable and paid benefits under Arkansas law. In October 2013, the Russells, through their counsel, filed a Request for Benefit Review Conference with the Tennessee Department of Labor. No additional action occurred in Tennessee, and benefits continued to be paid according to Arkansas law. After the administrative process was exhausted, the Russells filed this action in the Circuit Court for Washington County against Employer and Insurer, requesting compensation benefits under the workers’ compensation laws of Tennessee. Employer argued that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the claim and that even if it had jurisdiction, the Russells had made an election of remedies and were precluded from pursuing benefits in Tennessee. The trial court ruled for the Russells, holding that it had subject matter jurisdiction and that the Russells had not made an election of remedies. The trial court awarded Mr. Russell 65% permanent partial disability and Ms. Russell 85% permanent partial disability. Employer and Insurer appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.