As the saying goes, it all starts with a song in Nashville. In Davidson County Circuit Court apparently, it all starts with an injury.
Adding to the slew of workers' compensation and work-related injury lawsuits filed lately in Davidson County Circuit Court is a case seemingly culled from fictional accounts of labor-management angst.
Charles Kearns, a worker at Vought Aircraft near Nashville International Airport, on Wednesday sued his employer, corporate sibling Triumph Aerostructures LLC and his boss, Jessie James, accusing the group of fraudulent intentional misrepresentation, misrepresentation by concealment and assault and battery. (View the complaint here.)
Kearns is being represented by Neal & Harwell attorney David Bridgers. Vought, Triumph and James are represented by Ben Bodzy with the Nashville office of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz.
Following is a brief summation of the events leading to this lawsuit:
In early March 2007, Kearns, a union official of unknown rank, hurt both wrists while on the job at Vought, his employer since 1998. That month, he underwent a second surgery to repair his right wrist of carpal tunnel, specifically dubbed right wrist carpel tunnel release.
While recuperating, Kearns was denied workers' compensation benefits. At the time, Vought asserted Kearns was not entitled to sick and accident pay because he wouldn’t sign a Vought-prepared statement that his injuries were not work-related.
That reticence cost Kearns. Things went from bad to worse as Vought officials wouldn’t let the matter rest. Soon after Kearns was allowed to return to work, Vought officials and James attempted again to get Kearns to sign a form stating his wrist injury was not a workers' compensation injury. Kearns refused.
As time went on, Kearns began to feel the stress of the continued pressure to perform work outside his physical limitation and began to perform duties outside doctor-prescribed limits. The complaint states that James threatened to send Kearns home during this time, which would have meant that Kearns could only receive sick wages, according to company policy.
The bottom line is Vought and James would not accommodate Kearns — apparently to any degree — to help the worker through his workplace injury recovery.
Then signatures started appearing, it seems, out of nowhere.
Vought claimed it had paperwork from Kearns' treating physician showing that he was only limited 33 percent of the time, meaning he could work 67 percent of the time. To Vought’s way of thinking, according to the complaint, the 33 percent equaled lunch and break time combined. This paperwork was in reality a Medical Status Report that had apparently been fraudulently signed by a Vought plant nurse, supposedly at the direction of Kearns' treating physician. Kearns claims his doctor never approved the move and never blessed the application of his signature by a third party.
Events then came to a head when Kearns and James argued over the number of hours Kearns had worked for some recent period.
“Mr. James responded by placing his foot on top of Mr. Kearns’ foot and holding Mr. Kearns’ foot down with his weight. Mr. James then told Mr. Kearns that he was not intimidated by Mr. Kearns,” the complaint reads.
Kearns reported this incident to Vought officials, who told Kearns the trouble would not have occurred if his work restrictions had been properly lifted. This lawsuit soon followed in April 2011, but was “non suited” and has now been refiled.
Sources not wanting to be identified told NashvillePost.com that non-suiting often occurs for many reasons, including giving opposing parties time to work out differences or allowing time for more extensive discovery. In other words, the delay gives no indication of the validity of either party’s claim.
Neither Bodzy nor Bridgers was available for comment late Thursday. Kearns is seeking compensatory and punitive damages to the extent allowed under the law, including attorneys’ fees and the like.