The TV is in the shop and I thought it only fair to update this thread and give Samsung some props.
After learning on Wednesday that the review department had deemed it physical damage and would not fix it, I got a hold of my local tech shop. They recommended I call back and ask for ECR (Executive Customer Relations). I did this, and got a gal named Evette. She was maybe the best customer service agent I've ever dealt with. She was extremely patient, listened to what had happened and actually listened. She was quiet while I explained the situation and other issues around the damaged area and why I was concerned that a faulty panel could have easily created a situation where the screen was ready to crack. When I was done with my lengthy explanation she responded to my concerns with details, proving that she had actually listened to what I said.
She then informed me that the review department was a 3rd party group and their say was final, but after hearing my side of the issue she would be willing to authorize payment for parts if I would be willing to cover labor. Deal!!
I was ready to go all the way to small claims with this. My next step was a letter to the Office of the President. I felt that worse case it wouldn't be worth the hassle for them to fight it and best case I could convince a Judge I had preponderance of the evidence in a civil small claims scenario. That would have taken months.
This was a fair solution and I commend Evette and the ECR group for having the empowerment to solve an issue like this.