“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
In 2013, the Tennessee Legislature passed comprehensive Workers’ Compensation reform legislation. The reform created a new, administrative Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims within the Workers’ Compensation Division. Our Court officially opened its doors on July 1, 2014, when the new law took effect.
The Judges, left to right, are: Hon. Kenneth M. Switzer, Chief Judge, Nashville; Hon. Lisa Lowe, Knoxville; Hon. Jim Umsted, Memphis; Hon. Thomas Wyatt, Chattanooga; Hon. Ellen Hobbs Lyle, Davidson County Chancery Court, who swore us in; Hon. Allen Phillips, Jackson; Hon. Pamela Johnson, Knoxville; Hon. Josh Baker, Nashville; and Hon. Brian Addington, Kingsport.
The new law brought significant changes, both substantively and procedurally. All eight judges across the state have spoken publicly on numerous occasions, to bar, business and community groups, in an effort to educate all stakeholders about the new aspects of the law. Admittedly, the changes are myriad. They present a learning curve, for the Court and practitioners alike. Thus we have created this blog as a means of further communicating critical information about the new law and the Court, to promote just, efficient outcomes, with an emphasis on service and courtesy toward all individuals. We anticipate that every member of this Court will contribute his or her thoughts from time to time, and welcome your constructive feedback.
The Court’s website posts rules for both the Division and the Court. It is vitally important for litigants and their attorneys to read them in advance of any court appearance. Just a few months have passed since the new law and procedures took effect, and in that time, we have noticed that one rule is often inadvertently overlooked.
Medical records frequently play a central role in workers’ compensation hearings. More often than not, the records are lengthy and come from multiple providers. In an effort to ensure that everyone is literally on the same page, Rule 0800-02-21.16(6)(a) requires that:
[A]ll medical records designated to be presented as evidence at a scheduled hearing that exceed ten (10) pages shall include a chronological table of contents. The medical records designated shall be filed with the Division and each of the records shall be identified by author and date and numbered as in the table of contents.
Rule 7 of the Court’s rules mirrors these requirements. In the hearings held to date, parties often stipulated to the admissibility of records, but neglected to organize the records in accordance with the rules. Referring to specific pages within unorganized records can be especially difficult during telephonic hearings. Please be careful in future hearings to comply with this rule.
Along these lines, we ask everyone, but attorneys especially, to cull the records and file only those that support your position. If a claimant alleges a back injury, we don’t need to see the colonoscopy results, for example. We really do review all information submitted prior to a hearing. We notice when a file has been worked up so that it is organized, succinct and helps us understand the issues coming into court. We notice the opposite as well.
Overall, we have been impressed with the high-quality advocacy demonstrated before the Court, and thank you in advance for your cooperation and courtesies.
Coming soon: A Trip to Kingsport