Court of Appeals Finds Commission’s Disability Determination Flawed
In State ex rel. Staples The Office Superstore East, Inc. v. Indus. Comm., 2013-Ohio-4339, the 10th District Court of Appeals found the Commission abused its discretion by granting temporary total disability compensation (TTC), where the treating doctor’s chart notes showed he was treating the claimant for a non-allowed low back condition.
The claim was allowed for lower leg conditions. The treating doctor’s Medco-14’s and C-84’s disabled the claimant solely for the allowed conditions in the claim and restricted her to seated work. However, the doctor’s progress notes revealed the claimant’s low back condition was a contributing factor in the seated job restriction. Based on the totality of the evidence, the court of appeals found the Medco-14 and C-84 irreconcilably conflicted with the chart notes. Therefore, the Commission’s reliance on the Medco-14 and C-84 was an abuse of discretion. The court also reasoned the award of compensation is otherwise unlawful unless the claimant moved the Commission to additionally allow the low back condition.
Although this case is helpful to employers defending motions for TTC, the case seems to conflict with the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in State ex re. Ignatious v. Indus. Comm. 99 Ohio St.3d 285. Under similar factual circumstances, the Supreme Court held a claimant is entitled to TTC if she presents evidence the allowed conditions have a direct causal connection to the disability. The Supreme Court held the claimant is not required to further show the non-allowed condition is not causing the disability.
The Commission cited the Ignatious decision in its appellate court briefs and has until early December to appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Staples case is appealed, it will be interesting how the Supreme Court reconciles the court of appeals’ decision with Ignatious.
Bugbee & Conkle held its Annual Employment Seminar October 3, 2013. Click here to read what you may have missed.
Court of Appeals Upholds Summary Judgment for Employer in Substantial Aggravation Case
In Lake v. Ann Grady Corp., 2013–Ohio-4740, the 6th District Court of Appeals held a claimant must submit objective evidence to support a claim for substantial aggravation under R.C. 4123.01(C)(4), reaffirming the court’s holding in Smith v. Lucas Co., 2011-Ohio-1548. In Lake, the Commission granted a claimant’s motion to additionally allow the claim for substantial aggravation of arthritis. The employer appealed to court and later filed for summary judgment on the ground the claimant failed to produce specific objective diagnostic findings, objective clinical findings or objective test results as the statute requires. The trial court granted summary judgment and the claimant appealed.
The court of appeals reviewed the evidence the claimant submitted to the trial court, which consisted of her expert’s affidavit. Although the affidavit stated there were x-rays, clinical findings, and subjective complaints to support substantial aggravation, the affidavit failed to cite the specific diagnostic tests or clinical findings. Rejecting the affidavit, the court reasoned “merely stating that objective evidence exists is not in and of itself objective evidence.”
Further, the court clarified its decision in Smith, writing the claimant is not required to provide pre-injury objective evidence of the condition to sustain her burden under the statute. However, the court reasoned there must be a pre-injury reference point from which to compare the post-injury condition.
Supreme Court Upholds Denial of Compensation Where Claimants Voluntarily Retire From Work
In separate decisions, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld Commission orders denying compensation to claimants who voluntarily retired from work.
In State ex rel. Black v. Indus Comm., 2013–Ohio–4550 , the Commission found the claimant voluntarily retired from work because he took a regular retirement and produced no medical evidence causally connecting his retirement to the allowed conditions in the claim. Consequently, the Court upheld the Commission’s denial of PTD benefits.
In State ex rel. Hoffman v. Rexam Beverage Can Co., 2013–Ohio-4538, the Commission denied the claimant’s motion for temporary total disability compensation (“TTC”) because the claimant retired due to “years of service” with the employer, he produced no medical evidence connecting his retirement to the claim, and he received Social Security Disability benefits suggesting he had no intention to re-enter the workforce.
While voluntary abandonment is a question of fact for the Commission, these cases illustrate the success employers can enjoy when they provide documentation of voluntary retirement. Please contact our office if you have questions about the types of documents necessary to establish a voluntary retirement defense to a request for compensation.