Time to reboot this case

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

We're hearing a lot lately about mandatory drug testing in the workplace. It appears that the Tennessee Supreme Court might be a good place to put such a requirement in place. 

The state's highest court recently upheld a bizarre worker's compensation claim against a skilled operator that defies logic, common sense and perhaps even the law. 

But first some background: 

Memphis-based Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has a strict policy prohibiting employees from wearing Croc-type shoes. These plastic shoes enjoyed temporary fad status about a half decade ago. They may be fine for a carefree day at the beach. But they really have no place on the feet of healthcare professionals during work hours.

So what happens when a nurse violates the policy, falls and gets injured? If you guessed that the person gets to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of following rules, you really don't understand Tennessee justice.

In fact, the state's highest court recently upheld a lower court's compensation award to a nurse who sustained injuries when she fell at the facility, fracturing her right shoulder. 

At least one of the state's Supreme Court justices seemed to appreciate the folly. In a dissent, William R. Koch Jr. wrote: 

“Here, even taking the trial court's credibility determinations into account, there is no escaping the fact that [the nurse] failed to prove that an ‘employment hazard' caused her to fall,” Koch wrote.

But in writing for the majority, Justice Janice M. Holder countered, “We must give deference to the trial court's determination of credibility.” 

So even though an employee willfully disobeyed a policy and injured herself, the facility is responsible? Even if there is no evidence that anything other than prohibited footwear caused an injury? This, because it's possible she might have tripped on something that nobody saw? Amazing.

The message to plaintiffs in Tennessee should be clear: It's open season on nursing homes. Lawyer up and see what you can get. It hardly matters if you don't have a leg to stand on.