McCall v. National Health Corporation, No. M2004-00261-WC-R3-CV (Tenn. Sp. Workers Comp. 11/3/2006), M2004-00261-WC-R3-CV.

Decision Date03 November 2006
Docket NumberNo. M2004-00261-WC-R3-CV.,M2004-00261-WC-R3-CV.
PartiesCharlotte McCall v. National Health Corporation, ET AL.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court — Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel

John W. Rodgers and James P. Barger, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for appellants, National Health Corporation and Greg Bidwell.

Larry McElhaney, II, Nashville, Tennessee for appellee, Charlotte McCall.

Donald P. Harris, SR. J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Adolpho A. Birch, J., and William H. Inman, Sr. J., joined.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DONALD P. HARRIS, SR. J.

This workers' compensation appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-225(e)(3) for hearing and reporting to the Supreme Court of findings of fact and conclusions of law. In this appeal, the employer asserts that the trial court erred in finding the employee's injury compensable, awarding the employee workers' compensation benefits, and finding the employee seventy-five (75%) percent disabled as a result of her employment with National Health Corporation. The employee asserts that the trial court erred in not finding the employee totally disabled and that summary judgment should not have been granted with respect to the tort claim brought against employee's supervisor. We conclude that the findings of the trial court should be affirmed with regard to issues relating to workers' compensation benefits. Appellate jurisdiction with regard to the granting of summary judgment on Ms. McCall's tort claim lies with the Court of Appeals and, pursuant to Rule 17, T. R. App. P., the cause is transferred to that court for appropriate review.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Charlotte McCall was fifty-two years of age at the time of the trial on the issue of vocational disability.1 She has a General Educational Development diploma but no other vocational training. She was employed by National Health Corporation ("NHC") for 15 years, starting as a central supply clerk and moving up to the housekeeping and laundry supervisor. Her duties included hiring and terminating employees, keeping records for her department, ordering supplies and being in charge of the safety committee. Her primary overall responsibility was to maintain the cleanliness of the hospital.

On November 23, 2000, Ms. McCall and her supervisor, Greg Bidwell, had an altercation that arose out of her purported failure to properly prepare for a NHC work project. When the work-project was scheduled to begin, Mr. Bidwell discovered that Ms. McCall appeared not to have followed through on her preparations. Mr. Bidwell called Ms. McCall into her office where the confrontation occurred. Ms. McCall testified that Mr. Bidwell grabbed her upper arms, shook her, and with his face approximately six inches away from hers, yelled at her to pay more attention to her duties. Mr. Bidwell shook her again before pushing her out of the way as he exited the office. Ms. McCall stated that she had never felt so scared and terrified at work or at any other time in her life. After she completed the work-project, Ms. McCall contacted the NHC regional director of nursing and informed her of the altercation. She also detailed the incident to the NHC regional vice-president and the NHC vice-president of corporate affairs. The vice-president of corporate affairs sent Ms. McCall a letter, dated December 18, 2000, stating that Mr. Bidwell had been "counseled regarding his need to control his temper and his emotions" and encouraged Ms. McCall to put the incident behind her.

Ms. McCall continued reporting to work for the next two months and, during that time, worked with Mr. Bidwell. After that time, she ceased reporting to work because she had flashbacks of the incident which caused her considerable stress. Prior to the altercation, Ms. McCall did not have any problem performing her job and the job did not cause her substantial stress. However, after the altercation, she testified she could no longer perform her duties at NHC or any other job. Ms. McCall testified that since the altercation, she does not leave her home unless absolutely necessary. She related having nightmares about the event, being unable to complete even simple tasks, lying in bed much of the day, crying uncontrollably and generally being unable to function.

Maryanne Griffin, Charlotte McCall's sister, described her as being reclusive following the incident, afraid of being around people and unable to perform her household duties as she had previously done. She also indicated Mrs. McCall did not attend to her personal hygiene as well as she did prior to her becoming ill and was unable to follow through and complete housekeeping chores. Ms. Griffin and her husband have assisted Ms. McCall in taking care of her house and yard since the injury and have assisted her financially through loans of money needed to maintain household expenses.

On January 17, 2001, NHC provided a panel of physicians to Ms. McCall from which she chose Dr. Warren Langworthy as the authorized treating physician. Dr. Langworthy was unable to control her mental problems, so he referred Ms. McCall to Dr. Ravi Singh, who diagnosed Ms. McCall with post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") after a series of examinations.

II. EXPERT TESTIMONY

Dr. Ravi Singh testified by deposition. He is a licensed psychiatrist and has spent fourteen years practicing psychiatric medicine in Tennessee. He earned his medical degree from the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur, India, and earned a Master's degree in Public Heath from John Hopkins University.

Following her referral by Dr. Langworthy, Ms. McCall first visited Dr. Singh on April 2, 2001, complaining of a decrease in energy, loss of weight, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and frequent bouts of crying. Dr. Singh diagnosed Ms. McCall with PTSD and pre-existing major depression. Prior to the incident with Mr. Bidwell, Ms. McCall had developed major depression due to the death of her father, the dissolution of her marriage, and a serious illness in her family. Dr. Singh opined that Ms. McCall's confrontation with Mr. Bidwell caused Ms. McCall's PTSD and that her pre-existing major depression was not a contributing factor. Dr. Singh testified that Ms. McCall suffered marked impairment at a level that significantly impeded useful functioning. He could not say, however, that she had an extreme impairment that precluded useful functioning. He also indicated the stress caused by her financial difficulties and the pendency of the legal action contributed to her inability to function.

Dr. Steven Nyquist is a licensed psychiatrist with approximately twenty-four years of experience in private practice. He earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas City and his psychiatric degree from Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Nyquist performed an independent medical evaluation of Ms. McCall. When he initially testified in the first part of the bifurcated trial, he had not examined Ms. McCall personally but based his opinion solely on Ms. McCall's prior medical records. He also testified in person during the second part of the trial. By that time, he had personally interviewed Ms. McCall on one occasion. Dr. Nyquist felt Ms. McCall was misdiagnosed and mislead into believing that she had PTSD. He believed the therapy she was receiving for PTSD tended to instill the symptoms of helplessness and the disability attendant to those symptoms. Dr. Nyquist testified that Ms. McCall did not suffer the type of trauma necessary to develop PTSD. He believed she suffered from major depression and had suffered from that condition since 1996. Dr. Nyquist believed the condition began to manifest itself when she gradually lost her supporting structure. Her father, who she had been close to, died. She was divorced from her husband. She also received support from her job and working environment. When the November 2000 incident occurred, she felt betrayed. She was humiliated and embarrassed by Mr. Bidwell's criticism and affected by her perception that the vice-president of corporate affairs did not respond to her complaint adequately.

Dr. Nyquist believed Ms. McCall was impaired by her mental condition and described that impairment as being mild to moderate. He believed she would have progressed more favorably had she been properly diagnosed and treated.

III. VOCATIONAL EVIDENCE

Gordon Doss testified by deposition. He is a vocational evaluator with a Ph.D. in vocational rehabilitation counseling earned from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Doss is a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor and is a member of the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Association's board of directors. He has thirty-five years of experience in medical management and rehabilitation. Dr. Doss performed a vocational evaluation on Ms. McCall. Based on a review of Ms. McCall's records and three meetings, Dr. Doss assessed Ms. McCall to be one hundred (100%) percent vocationally disabled.

Edward Smith is a vocational consultant with a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling with a specialty degree in job placement of the severely disabled earned from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He has twenty-seven years of experience as a vocational consultant. He also performed a vocational evaluation on Ms. McCall. He performed a labor market survey and found thirty-three positions where Ms. McCall's skills would transfer. Of those positions, he testified that twenty-one involved minimal contact with other people and were situations where Ms. McCall would not be exposed to pressure from co-workers or pressure from supervision responsibilities. Mr. Smith testified that Ms. McCall was...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT