State ex rel. Rockwell Intern. v. Industrial Com'n of Ohio

Decision Date14 December 1988
Docket NumberNo. 87-1019,87-1019
Citation40 Ohio St.3d 44,531 N.E.2d 678
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

When a claimant's retirement is causally related to an industrial injury, the retirement is not "voluntary" so as to preclude eligibility for temporary total disability compensation.

Appellant, Rollin Sharp, sustained a low back injury on September 25, 1980, within the course of and arising out of his employment with appellee, Rockwell International. Temporary total disability benefits were ordered to be paid through April 11, 1982. On April 12, appellant was released to return to light duty work by Dr. Julio E. Salinas, his attending physician. Dr. Salinas' April 15, 1982 letter to appellee restricted appellant to no bending and no lifting over twenty-five pounds. Evidence from appellant's employer indicates that appellant's job required him to move steel axle housings which weighed between one hundred seventy and one hundred ninety pounds.

On January 9, 1984, appellant filed an application to reactivate his claim, requesting, among other things, temporary total disability compensation. In contesting the requested compensation, appellee argued, inter alia, that appellant-claimant had voluntarily retired and was precluded from receiving temporary total disability benefits. On July 12, 1984, an Industrial Commission district hearing officer awarded temporary total disability compensation from March 22, 1984 through May 16, 1984, to continue upon submission of further medical proof of continued eligibility. The order was affirmed by the regional board of review. Upon further appeal, staff hearing officers of the commission affirmed, specifically finding that appellant's retirement was due to his industrial injury and, as such, was not voluntary so as to preclude temporary total disability compensation.

Appellee filed a complaint in mandamus in the Court of Appeals for Franklin County. The appellate court granted the writ and ordered the commission to vacate its order and find appellant not entitled to temporary total disability compensation subsequent to his retirement.

This cause is now before the court upon an appeal as of right.

Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, Thomas M. Taggart and James J. Hughes III, Columbus, for appellee.

Larrimer & Larrimer and Craig Aalyson, Columbus, for appellant.


In State, ex rel. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., v. Indus. Comm. (1985), 29 Ohio App.3d 145, 29 OBR 162, 504 N.E.2d 451, the court of appeals held that voluntary retirement may be a basis for denying continued payment of temporary total disability compensation "where the claimant by such retirement has voluntarily removed himself from the work force * * * ." Id. at 147, 29 OBR at 164, 504 N.E.2d at 454. In the case at bar, we are asked to determine whether an injury-induced retirement is "voluntary" so as to preclude a claimant's eligibility for temporary total disability benefits. We find that it is not.

In State, ex rel. Ramirez, v. Indus. Comm. (1982), 69 Ohio St.2d 630, 23 O.O.3d 518, 433 N.E.2d 586, we defined "temporary total disability" as a "disability which prevents a worker from returning to his former position of employment." Id. at syllabus. Relying on that definition, the appellate court, in Jones & Laughlin, supra, reasoned that " * * * where the employee has taken action that would preclude his returning to his former position of employment, even if he were able to do so, he is not entitled to continued temporary total disability benefits since it is his own action, rather than the industrial injury, which prevents his returning to his former position of employment." Id. 29 Ohio App.3d at 147, 29 OBR at 164, 504 N.E.2d at 454.

We adopted this rationale in State, ex rel. Ashcraft, v. Indus. Comm. (1987), 34 Ohio St.3d 42, 517 N.E.2d 533, finding the crux of Jones & Laughlin to be: " * * * recognition of the two-part test to determine whether an injury qualified for temporary total disability compensation. The first part of this test focuses upon the disabling aspects of the injury, whereas the latter part determines if there are any factors, other than the injury, which would prevent the claimant from returning to his former position. The secondary consideration is a reflection of the underlying purpose of temporary total compensation: to compensate an injured employee for the loss of earnings which he incurs while the injury heals." Id. at 44, 517 N.E.2d at 535.

Neither Ashcraft nor Jones & Laughlin states that any abandonment of employment precludes payment of temporary total disability compensation; they provide that only voluntary abandonment precludes it. While a distinction between voluntary and involuntary abandonment was contemplated, the terms until today have remained undefined. We find that a proper analysis must look beyond the mere volitional nature of a claimant's departure. The analysis must also consider the reason underlying the claimant's decision to retire. We hold that where a...

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