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Court Of Appeals Finds Pre-Injury Decision To Terminate Employment May Preclude Payment Of TTD Compensation.

In State ex rel. Sheets v. Indus. Comm., 2017-Ohio-1169, the claimant violated a work rule about a month before sustaining an injury at work. The company made its decision to terminate the claimant 3 days before the injury, which termination would become effective on the date of injury.   The claimant’s physician disabled the claimant beginning on the date of injury.  Administratively, the claimant requested temporary total compensation, which was granted by a DHO. The employer appealed and an SHO affirmed the award, specifically rejected the company’s voluntary abandonment argument. On reconsideration, the full Industrial Commission vacated the SHO order and denied the claimant’s request for temporary total compensation benefits finding the SHO’s reliance on State ex rel. Gross v. Indus. Comm., 115 Ohio St.3d 249, 2007-Ohio-4916 (Gross II) was misplaced.  The claimant filed a mandamus action in the court of appeals.

In Gross II, the Supreme Court held termination for a pre-injury conduct will not preclude TTD compensation as a voluntary abandonment when the decision to terminate is made after the date of injury.  Additionally, in Gross II the employee was terminated based on conduct that caused the injury. The Supreme Court concluded if the employee’s termination from employment was causally related to the injury, the termination does not preclude the employee’s eligibility for TTD compensation. In Sheets, the court of appeals distinguished Gross II, finding the decision to terminate the claimant occurred prior to the injury. Furthermore, the claimant was not terminated based on the conduct causing the injury. Because the claimant’s work rule violation occurred prior to her termination, the claimant’s termination from employment was not causally related to her injury. The court of appeals noted  the Supreme Court in Gross II did not indicate the voluntary abandonment doctrine can never be applied to pre-injury conduct and it did not address circumstances like those in the Sheets case, in which the decision to terminate had already been made prior to the workplace injury.

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