Approximately 15 months ago, before this Court even opened its doors, we drafted Practices and Procedures for the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims. We drew upon our collective experience as civil litigators and/or practitioners under the pre-2013 reforms to Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation Law. We thought deeply about how the execution of the new law would play out in our new courtrooms.
It’s often said that experience makes the best teacher. A year later, we’ve seen the new law and our rules in the execution, and in response, we made a few revisions/expansions. This post seeks to draw attention to a few of those changes. But we urge anyone involved in a case before the Court to read, and exhibit familiarity, with all of our rules.
For starters, we expanded the rules regarding motion practice, Rule 4. Rule 4.01 discusses how the Court will schedule and handle dispositive motions going forward, and Rule 4.02 offers new guidance regarding non-dispositive motions. Generally, the former are argued; the latter are decided based on the written materials, but a judge may set them for argument as needed.
Rule 5 now contains further explanation about the affidavit requirement for Requests for Expedited Hearings. Now it it clear that declarations made in compliance with Rule 72 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure will suffice, in addition to an affidavit. We’ve also spelled out that an affidavit or declaration must set forth a written, sworn statement of facts demonstrating that the moving party is entitled to to the benefits of relief sought. An affidavit that is signed and sworn, but is otherwise blank, does not assist the judge in making his or her determination. Tell us your story.
In a year’s time, we have conducted dozens of interlocutory hearings, statewide, and in response have expanded Rule 7.02, Expedited Hearings, significantly. We have determined as a Court that we prefer in-person rather than telephonic hearings, to assist in making accurate credibility determinations. However, under special circumstances, telephonic appearances and/or testimony are allowed. We further added in timeframes for parties to submit evidence in advance of an Expedited Hearing, to prevent “trial by ambush.”
Revised Rule 7.03, Compensation Hearings, now clarifies that parties may request a a final decision based on a review of the written materials, rather than an in-person hearing. The rule additionally: 1) explains what needs to be filed in advance of trial, and when; 2) the circumstances under which witnesses or exhibits not previously disclosed may be introduced at trial; and, 3) whether the Court favors continuances (in a word, no).
We additionally drafted a new rule on audio and video formats to Rule 3.03, Audiovisual Equipment, to let parties and practitioners know which formats are compatible with the Bureau’s technology and archiving protocols.
These are just some of the changes. We wouldn’t want to spoil all the fun by listing them all here. Please take the time to read the rules before coming to Court. And don’t forget, if you have questions about them, you may email Penny Shrum or Jane Salem, respectively at WC.CourtClerk@tn.gov and firstname.lastname@example.org, for assistance.