Session September 30, 2019
November 13, 2019
from the Maury County Circuit Court No. 12732 J. Russell
filed a motion asking the trial court to require Employer to
provide additional treatment for a work-related injury she
suffered in March 2007. The trial court granted
Employee's motion and denied Employer's motion to
appoint a neutral physician. Employer's appeal has been
referred to this Special Workers' Compensation Appeals
Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and
conclusions of law. Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 51,' 1. After
reviewing the evidence in the record and the parties'
arguments, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
Code Ann. § 50-6"225(e) (2014) (applicable to
injuries occurring prior to July 1, 2014) Appeal as of Right;
Judgment of the Maury County Circuit Court Affirmed.
J. Dement, Nashville, Tennessee, for appellants, Hubbell
Power Systems and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.
D. Massey, Pulaski, Tennessee, for appellee, Darla McKnight.
ASH, SE. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
JEFFREY S. BIVINS, C.J., and ROBERT E. LEE DAVIES, SR. J.,
ASH, SR. J.
March 16, 2007, Darla McKnight ("Employee") injured
her neck in the course and scope of her employment with
Hubbell Power Systems ("Employer"). She was treated
for her injury by Dr. Cyrus Ghavam. On February 20, 2009, the
trial court approved a settlement of Employee's claim for
workers' compensation benefits. On January 3, 2018,
Employee filed a "Motion to Require [Employer] to
Provide Recommended Medical Treatment." According to the
motion, Dr. Ghavam advised Employee she needed surgery
related to her 2007 work-related injury. On July 30, 2018,
Employer filed a "Motion to Appoint Neutral Physician
pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-204(d)(9)."
Ghavam, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, examined
Employee on May 25, 2007. Employee, who was then 37 years of
age, stated she had been "twisting and pulling on a
piece of equipment" when "she felt and heard a
popping sensation in her neck and had immediate burning and
stabbing pain in her neck going down the left shoulder into
the arm." According to Dr. Ghavam's deposition, an
MRI "showed disc protrusions at three levels in her
neck: C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7," which were "more
significant towards the left side." Because the MRI was
of "moderate quality at best," Dr. Ghavam ordered a
CT myelogram, which showed "broad-based disc protrusion,
worse on the left at C4-5 and similar pathology at
C5'6." Dr. Ghavam diagnosed Employee with
"degenerative disc disease with disc protrusions at
C4-5, C5-6, and C6"7, as well as cervical
radiculopathy." He advised against surgery at that time,
but he imposed restrictions against overhead work and
lifting. Employee was also treated with medication, steroid
injections, traction, and a TENS unit. Employee reached
maximum medical improvement on February 15, 2008.
Ghavam re-examined Employee in November 2009, admittedly
after Employee was in a car accident. Although Employee
reported a "significant increase in neck pain as well as
back and left leg pain," an MRI revealed "no
additional herniated disc" and "no objective change
in terms of the findings on the imaging studies" as a
result of the accident. Dr. Ghavam also examined Employee for
neck and right arm pain on November 28, 2012! Employee had
"a herniated disc at C6-7" and "a significant
nerve compression on the right side affecting the C7 nerve
root." He described this as "a new condition"
that did not relate to the Employee's work injury. He
surmised the condition was "most likely" a
"spontaneous herniation" related to Employee's
degenerative disc disease.
September 28, 2016, Employee reported pain in her neck and
left arm. Dr. Ghavam diagnosed "chronic neck pain with
cervical radiculopathy which has progressively
worsened." According to Dr. Ghavam, an MRI taken in
October 2016 showed Employee had "severe stenosis at
C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7," which was a degenerative
condition. Dr. Ghavam explained the original work accident
"triggered the development of left arm symptoms due to
the disc protrusions at C4-5 and C5-6," and "this
is basically the same condition that's manifested itself
again years later." According to Dr. Ghavam, Employee
elected to proceed with surgery "in view of the duration
of symptoms and increase in severity of her symptoms."
Ghavam agreed the need for surgery "arose out of her
on-the-job injury in March of 2007." He ...