Under the Ohio workers’ compensation system, a disabled claimant is paid temporary-total-disability compensation (“TTD”) to compensate the claimant for lost earnings while the injury heals. Contrary to this basic tenet of TTD, for over a decade, Ohio courts have held a claimant is entitled to TTD so long as he is still disabled when he voluntarily leaves his employment. However, in a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision, the Court overruled State ex rel. Reitter Stucco, Inc. v. Indus. Comm. and State ex rel. OmniSource Corp. v. Indus. Comm., which were the source of that rule.
In the recent Ohio Supreme Court case, State ex rel. Klein v. Precision Excavating & Grading Company, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-3890, the Court held a claimant is ineligible for TTD when he voluntarily removes himself from his former position of employment for reasons unrelated to the workplace injury, even if the claimant remains disabled at the time of his separation from employment. At issue in Klein was whether a claimant who previously planned to relocate was entitled to temporary total disability when the relocation occurred, as planned, after the date of injury. Prior to the date of injury, the claimant had informed multiple co-workers and supervisors that he planned to relocate to Florida. Just weeks after the date of injury, despite being disabled, the claimant went through with the planned moved to Florida.
At the administrative level, the Industrial Commission found the claimant voluntarily abandoned his employment for reasons unrelated to his workplace injury. Therefore, the claimant was only awarded a closed period of TTD, beginning on the day after the date of injury and concluding on the day the claimant moved to Florida. However, the 10th District Court of Appeals reversed the Industrial Commission’s decision, and the employer appealed.
On appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court noted the purpose of temporary total disability is to compensate a claimant for lost earnings during a period of disability. The Court further noted the rule set forth by Reitter Stucco and OmniSource is a “radical departure” from the Court’s other decisions on TTD eligibility because it focuses on the claimant’s disability status, as opposed to the reason for loss of earnings. Therefore, the Court overruled Reitter Stucco and OmniSource and held a claimant is no longer eligible for TTD when their voluntary actions, and not the industrial injury, cause a loss of wages. This holding brings consistency to TTD eligibility because eligibility in all separation from employment cases is now based on whether the separation is causally related to the workplace injury.
This decision in Klein is very favorable to employers because a claimant who voluntarily abandons his employment, for reasons unrelated to the work injury even while on TTD, is no longer eligible to receive TTD. If an employer has an active claim where the claimant was previously granted TTD specifically pursuant to Reitter Stucco and/or OmniSource, that employer may now be able to file a motion for continuing jurisdiction to have that TTD determination reversed and declared overpaid.
If you have any further questions regarding this decision, or any other issue in workers’ compensation, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Workers’ Compensation Practice Group.
This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel.
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