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Claimant’s Evidence Without a Physician’s Opinion on Impairment Insufficient to Support a Loss of Vision Award

BY: Janelle Matuszak, Esq.

In State ex rel. Beyer v. Autoneum North America, ___Ohio St.3d ____, 2019-Ohio-3714, claimant had an allowed claim for pneumoconiosis as a result of exposure to silica.  His treatment included long-term corticosteroid use which caused cataracts.  His claim was additionally allowed for bilateral cataract syndrome on a flow-through basis.  The claimant filed a motion for a loss of vision of the right eye award pursuant to R.C. 4123.57(B) which provides for payment of 125 weeks of the statewide average weekly wage for loss of the sight of an eye.  R.C. 4123.57 also allows for a hearing officer to award a percentage of vision loss as long as the loss is not less than 25%.  Claimant argued his vision loss equaled 35%.

At hearing, claimant filed evidence showing his pre-injury vision was 20/20 and post injury vision was 20/100 (Snellen fractions).  He did not file a statement from his physician giving an opinion on the level of impairment he suffered.  Instead, he relied on table 12.2 of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 5th Edition, which showed uncorrected vision of 20/100 represented 35% loss in visual acuity (see chart below).  The District Hearing Officer granted a 35% loss of vision award based on the Snellen fractions filed and table 12.2.

The Staff Hearing Officer denied the motion finding insufficient medical evidence to substantiate the loss of vision.  The Staff Hearing Officer noted the record lacked an explanation by a qualified physician supporting a 35% vision loss.  Claimant filed a Mandamus action and the Ohio Supreme Court ultimately sided with the company and held claimant’s evidence was insufficient to support a loss of vision award.  Evidence comparing pre-injury and post-injury visual acuity test results is not evidence of a physician’s determination of his degree of impairment.  Medical evidence must be submitted showing the degree of visual impairment.

 

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