GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY, ET AL.
KARLA DAVIS, ET AL.
Session Date: January 23, 2015
Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 111666IV Russell T. Perkins, Chancellor
W. Lewis Jenkins, Jr., Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Acting Solicitor General; Alexander S. Rieger, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Andy D. Bennett and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.
RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE
I. Factual Background
This appeal arises out of a claim brought pursuant to the Tennessee workers' compensation law, Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-101, et seq., by Susan Settle, a former employee of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (“Goodyear”) at its Union City, Tennessee, plant, who suffered injuries to her shoulders and knees when she fell at work. Ms. Settle was first seen by a doctor at the plant; she later selected Dr. Claiborne Christian from a panel of physicians provided by Goodyear to provide treatment for her right shoulder. After her treatment had begun, Ms. Settle filed a Request for Assistance ("RFA")with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development ("the Department"), requesting that the Department approve and order treatment for her left shoulder and both knees; her request was granted. Dr. Christian subsequently recommended surgery on Ms. Settle's left knee. Following receipt of a second opinion from Dr. Blake Chandler, in which he agreed with Dr. Christian's recommendation, Ms. Settle received the requested treatment.
Ms. Settle moved to Big Lake, Minnesota, and requested that she be provided a second panel of physicians in Minnesota so that her treatment could continue; Liberty Mutual refused the request. Ms. Settle then filed a RFA requesting that Liberty Mutual be ordered to provide a second panel. Counsel for Goodyear sent a letter to Dawn Young, the workers' compensation specialist for the Department, stating that Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-204 did not entitle Ms. Settle to a second panel nor did it provide authority for the appointment of a panel outside of the state of Tennessee. Ms. Young, however, ordered Goodyear to provide a second panel for Ms. Settle. Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-238(d)(1)(B)(i), Goodyear requested and received an administrative review of the Ms. Young's decision; the Department affirmed the order.
Goodyear filed a petition for certiorari review of the Department's decision, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-8-101 and § 27-9-101, contending that Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-204 did not obligate Goodyear to provide a second panel because it had previously provided Ms. Settle with a panel of physicians for her injuries; did not give the Department the authority to order an employer to provide a second panel of physicians once the employer has complied with the statute; and did not require that Goodyear provide a panel of physicians outside of Tennessee. The Department moved to dismiss the petition pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(1) asserting that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Goodyear had not yet exhausted the Benefit Review Conference ("BRC") process.
Following a hearing, the court denied the motion to dismiss. With respect to the petition for certiorari, the court held that the Department did not exceed its authority or act illegally when it ordered Goodyear to provide a second panel for Ms. Settle in Minnesota and denied the petition; Goodyear appeals this determination. The
Department cross-appeals, contending that the court did not possess subject matter jurisdiction to review the petition because Goodyear failed to exhaust its administrative remedy provided in the workers compensation law.
The Department contends that the court did not possess subject matter jurisdiction because Goodyear had not yet exhausted its administrative remedy-the BRC process-prior to filing its petition for review. Goodyear asserts that a writ of certiorari is the appropriate mechanism for subject matter jurisdiction because Goodyear was not seeking judicial review of the Department's decision, but a review of whether the Department exceeded its authority by ordering a second ...