Workers’ Comp Concurrent Award Not Authorized by Law
The Ohio Supreme Court today ruled that state law does not permit an award of permanent-partial disability compensation to an injured worker who has already been awarded permanent-total disability compensation in the same claim.
In a 5-2 per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court found that the Ohio Industrial Commission abused its discretion by considering Sherry L. Redwine’s application for permanent-partial disability compensation in the same claim in which she was receiving permanent-total disability compensation.
Work Injury/Claim History
Redwine filed a workers’ compensation claim after her Aug. 13, 2003 injury. The commission awarded her permanent-total disability benefits based on her psychological condition. Subsequently, Redwine applied for permanent-partial disability compensation based on the physical conditions allowed in her claim.
The commission concluded Redwine was not barred from concurrent compensation for permanent-partial disability if the claim was based on conditions that were not the basis for the prior finding of permanent-total disability in the same claim. Redwine’s employer, the Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services Inc., challenged the ruling in the Tenth District Court of Appeals and asked the court to vacate the commission’s order. The appeals court denied the writ of mandamus. Ohio Presbyterian appealed to the Supreme Court, which is required to hear appeals in mandamus actions.
Majority Cites Absence of Statutory Authority
While acknowledging that the Ohio General Assembly has allowed the payment of concurrent awards in limited circumstances, the Court found that the state statutes involved in this case – R.C. 4123.57 and R.C. 4123.58 – do not “expressly authorize concurrent payment of permanent-partial-disability and permanent-total-disability compensation.”
In fact, the Court’s opinion cites a 1992 case (State ex rel. Murray v. Indus. Comm.) to point out that the conspicuous absence of any reference to concurrent payment of benefits in the statute “evinces a legislative intent to prohibit simultaneous receipt of these benefits.” The Murray decision also held that a claimant may not currently receive compensation for permanent partial disability and permanent total disability for the same injury within the context of one claim.
The Court further reasoned: “Our conclusion is also reinforced by the purpose of permanent-total disability compensation – to compensate for the impairment of earning capacity. It logically follows that a claimant who is receiving permanent-total disability compensation is ineligible for concurrent permanent-partial disability compensation based on a different condition in the same claim.”
The Court’s decision overturns the appeals court’s decision and grants the writ of mandamus.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French concurred in the opinion.
Dissent Discusses Legislative Intent
In a dissent, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer wrote that he disagreed with the majority’s contention that the General Assembly, by not specifically granting concurrent benefits, made its position clear.
“I acknowledge that the statutory scheme also does not specifically allow concurrent benefits,” Justice Pfeifer wrote. “Unlike the majority, I do not assume that that means concurrent benefits are prohibited. Instead, I read the statutory scheme liberally in favor of the injured claimant, as required by R.C. 4123.95.”
Justice William M. O’Neill joined the dissent.
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