By Chief Judge Kenneth M. Switzer, Nashville
In the recent Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board decision Vickers v. Amazon.com, the Board observed that it is “unclear” why the email address to file a petition for benefit determination is that of the ombudsman program rather than the clerk of court, the customary recipient of a pleading.
In Vickers, the employee asserted that she filed her petition for benefit determination with an ombudsman within the statute of limitations, following the instructions on the form. Much later, and unfortunately for her, she couldn’t produce a file-stamped copy of the petition, and the case was dismissed on summary judgment, as it was filed after the statute of limitations passed.
Had Ms. Vickers located a file-stamped copy, it would’ve reflected the stamp of the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims with the date and time it was filed in the upper left-hand corner of the document. All petitions for benefit determination, whether filed directly with the clerk or at the ombudsman email address, received the same stamp.
Following the decision, the Bureau modified the petition for benefit determination. The new form is available here. It reflects an e-mail filing address of PBD.CourtClerk@tn.gov. The stamp of the Court will continue to appear in the upper left corner. So, even though the filing address has changed, it still bears the same file-stamp.
BUT, why stop there? Additional changes have been made to the revised petition for benefit determination. They are:
- Sections B and C have been flipped. The new section B will provide a list for greater detail about an asserted injury: date of injury, body part, where the injury happened, witnesses, which work activities occurred when the injury happened, any causes, and to whom the injury was reported.
- The new form requests more supporting medical information and the employment record.
- The filing party is no longer required to make three attempts to obtain mediation dates. Now, the filing party simply lists three dates and checks a box indicating if the dates are agreed or only show the filing party’s availability.
- The new form highlights the requirement to send a copy to all parties.
- Additional instructions are provided throughout the document, as well as in an attached “Helpful Hints and Information” page, prepared by Mediation and Ombudsman Services of Tennessee.
You might recall that the Board long ago in Duck v. Cox Oil Company identified the petition for benefit determination as the equivalent to a complaint. It’s a critical pleading in every case. Thus the petition should be completed fully and correctly and filed with the Court at PBD.CourtClerk@tn.gov.
The Court stamp will be affixed, and your statute satisfied with a copy of the file-stamped petition returned to you. Same as before.
Of course, we’ll continue to accept the “old” petition forms for a while. The new one is now on the Bureau’s website here. Please start using it immediately. Starting Dec. 2, 2019, the Clerk will only accept the new petition for benefit determination for filing.
As always, we appreciate your cooperation and suggestions as we develop new forms and procedures to make cases proceed in the most fair and efficient manner possible.