Court Upholds Trial Court’s Workers’ Compensation Award
Georgia Pacific Consumer Products LP v. Sheryl D. Gamble
On June 17, 2014, Sheryl Gamble (“Gamble”) suffered an on-the-job injury while employed with Georgia Pacific Consumers Products LP “(GP”). GP paid Gamble temporary-total-disability benefits for approximately 17 weeks. GP laid off Gamble on October 27, 2014. In August of 2015, Gamble sued GP, seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court entered a judgment on March 29, 2018, and found that Gamble was permanently and totally disabled as a result of her injures and that Gamble had reached maximum medical improvement ("MMI") on June 9, 2017, the MMI date determined by Gamble’s surgeon Dr. Timothy Holt. The trial court also taxed the costs associated with the action against GP and ordered Gamble to file a costs bill with the clerk within 45 days of the entry of the judgment.
GP filed a motion to appeal the trial court’s judgment. Specifically, GP challenged the trial court’s determination that Gamble was permanently and totally disabled and argued that the court improperly determined the date Gamble had reached MMI. Also, GP asserted that the judgment made GP responsible for all of Gamble’s medical treatment, including unauthorized treatment, and that the trial court considered evidence not admitted at trial. Lastly, GP challenged the trial court's award of litigation costs to Gamble and argued that Gamble had not presented sufficient evidence to support the award at the time of the entry of the judgment.
On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals concluded that GP had not established that the trial court’s conclusion that Gamble was permanently and totally disabled was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court noted that it is not the court’s duty to determine whether Gamble was permanently and totally disabled. Ultimately, the Court perceived no error insofar as the trial court determined Gamble’s MMI date, that Gamble was permanently and totally disabled, and calculated the benefits due to Gamble. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment and dismissed GP’s challenge of the trial court’s award of costs as premature.