The recent decision of the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Joshua Cooper, et al. v. Logistics Insight Corp., et al., No. CV (Tenn Ct. App. May 16, 2011) potentially upsets the apple cart for workers’ compensation liens on third-party tort recoveries. The prevailing view for a decade has been that the employer gets no lien or credit for future medical expenses. That isn’t entirely clear any more after this one.
Employee filed suit against Defendants, and Employer who paid Employee’s workers’ compensation benefits intervened. Employee settled with Defendants and filed a notice and order of voluntary dismissal. Employer moved to set the case for trial, contending Employer was not part of the settlement and was actively engaged in obtaining expert medical proof as to Employee’s future medical expenses. The trial court set the case for trial, but then granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss Employer’s suit for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6). Employer appealed.
On appeal, Defendants contended that Employer was not entitled to a credit on Employee’s recovery “for medical expenses that have not been incurred and are speculative.” The Court of Appeals looked to the workers’ compensation lien statute at Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-112(c)(1) and (2):