In the recent case of Marvin Windows of Tennessee vs. Bobby Williams, the Special Workers’ Compensation Panel of the Supreme Court reversed the trial court and outlined when a voluntary retirement results in the employee’s workers’ compensation award being “capped” at 1.5 times his impairment rating.

The plaintiff had a work injury and was released to return to work. He returned to work on modified duty until he went on vacation (approximately 6 weeks later). While on vacation he was injured in an automobile accident. He applied for and was granted medical leave as a result of the accident. While on leave for the non-work related injury, the employer offered an early retirement plan to all employees, which the plaintiff accepted. The plaintiff claimed that he took vacation because he could no longer do the job.

The Court reiterated that the term “meaningful return to work” had been often litigated and is fact specific. There are three factors which guide the analysis: (1) whether the injury rendered the employee unable to perform the job; (2) whether the employer refused to accommodate work restrictions arising from the injury; and (3) whether the injury caused too much pain to permit the continuation of the work.

The Court found that the facts that the plaintiff never voiced any concerns or complaints to his employer regarding his ability to do the job during the time he had returned (after MMI) and that he never attempted to return to work following his unrelated injury were important factors in the case. The Court further relied upon the fact that the plaintiff did not base his decision on any medical advice, in fact, the medical proof showed that he could return to work his regular duty job.

Debra Fulton provided this update and would be happy to answer any questions you may have concerning a workers’ compensation issue.