By Judge Brian Addington, Gray
Did the tune just pop in your head? It’s the title of a 1985 song from the band Alabama that reached number one on the country charts.
The song pays homage to all the workers behind the scenes who get things done in America. One part of the song talks about “working together like spokes inside a wheel. They keep this country turning around.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has many people “working together like spokes in a wheel” behind the scenes to resolve cases before they make it to the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims. Administrative staff, program coordinators, mediators, investigators, and many others play a big part in moving cases along. And, in the Court, we have staff working behind the scenes ̶ scheduling approvals and hearings, putting files together, and making sure cases are ready for trial.
The vast majority of our trials are interlocutory. Interlocutory hearings are those where a judge may enter an order, but that order doesn’t dispose of the case in its entirety.
The primary type of interlocutory hearing is an expedited hearing. Any party may file a Request for Hearing form and mark that they’re requesting an expedited hearing. At the expedited hearing, they present evidence and make arguments. It’s a real trial, just not the final adjudication.
So, here’s a reminder: if you request an expedited hearing, you must file an affidavit. And “must” means must.
In Hadzic v. Averitt Express, the Appeals Board held that a party must file an affidavit as part of an expedited hearing request as required by Rule 0800-02-21-.15. The affidavit must contain a plain, concise statement as to why the party is entitled to the requested relief.
It wasn’t an issue in Hadzic, but while I’m here, I want to point out that the rule also requires the requesting party to file documents that support the request and a list of witnesses the party intends to call.
This behind-the-scenes work of filing an affidavit and documents to support the claim, and disclosing witnesses, will help move the case down the line. Then the opposing party can respond with its own affidavits and documents at least ten days before the hearing.
Other tasks that should be done before the expedited hearing might include:
- Are the medical records paginated and organized with a table of contents? Are they signed by a doctor?
- Do you have proof of causation from a doctor?
- Do you have off-work notes or a list of restrictions?
- Do you have proof that the medical bills are related to treatment required for the injury, and the treatment and bills were reasonable and necessary?
- Did you subpoena persons you want to testify?
The Court has seen many cases become stalled because these behind-the-scenes actions weren’t done. I’m sure parties want to be heard timely and efficiently.
As I stated previously, an expedited hearing isn’t the final adjudication. If you don’t have the requisite proof for benefits at an expedited hearing, nothing’s stopping you from introducing it at a later expedited hearing or the final compensation hearing.
Still, often times the expedited hearing sets the course in a case, either for a later dispositive motion or a settlement. So, remember to help keep the case moving on down the line; follow the procedures above to present the best case you can at the interlocutory stage.
Also, don’t forget to regularly thank your staff, and employees at the Bureau, for working hard every day.