In Re Butter

By Judge Brian Addington, Gray

I’ve met people who were astounded when I told them I’m a judge. Just the other day, my wife and I were eating lunch with a few other couples, including the daughter of a famous professional football player. She actually did a doubletake and said “No” twice when I told her what I do for a living.

I whispered to my wife, “I’m glad I’m so underwhelming.”

Just kidding. It’s great to fly under the radar and have a life that is not constantly thinking, discussing and writing about “the law.”

For example, just the other day, I had a deep, thoughtful chat conversation with the other judges about the merits and usefulness of butter. Yeah, you read right, butter. Each judge had a favorite and made forceful arguments for their preferred brand. I made a rather controversial assertion that I preferred unsalted butter but was forgiven by most for my transgression. Eventually we moved on to more interesting topics such as music and the arts.

Which got me to thinking later that there could be a link between butter and the arts, and I found one.

Her name was Caroline Shawk Brooks. In a time when her family needed money because its cotton crop failed, she looked for a way to make her farm’s butter stand out from others. She created a niche market by sculpting hers into shapes that increasingly became more intricate.

Eventually, her skill made her famous, and she traveled across the U.S. and Europe creating beautiful sculptures. She even found a way to keep her creations from melting. I encourage you to look her up and read about this fascinating artist.

In keeping with the butter and law theme, I looked for workers’ compensation cases in Tennessee that involved butter. Although I didn’t find any with dairy butter, at least two mentioned peanut butter.

The most significant was Palmore v. Frito-Lay. Palmore injured his back on October 2, 1992, shoveling peanut butter filling into a snack sandwich-making machine. The issue in the case was whether the Second Injury Fund was liable.

When Mr. Palmore first brought his suit on August 23, 1993, he only listed Frito-Lay as a party. He filed an amended complaint on August 1, 1994, which included his claim against the Fund. The trial court awarded permanent total disability benefits and allocated 75 percent liability to Frito-Lay and 25 percent to the Fund.

A Supreme Court Special Workers’ Compensation Panel reversed as to the Fund, holding that the statute of limitations had run before Mr. Palmore amended his complaint. Further, the Panel found that Mr. Palmore was 75 percent disabled, not permanently and totally disabled.

The opinion is a nice reminder to name all relevant parties to a suit.

On a lighter note, let’s end this with a riddle.

Did you hear the joke about butter? No? Well, I can’t tell you; you’ll spread it!

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