State ex rel. Rouch v. Eagle Tool & Mach. Co., 85-1608

Decision Date23 September 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-1608,85-1608
Citation26 OBR 289,26 Ohio St.3d 197,498 N.E.2d 464
Parties, 26 O.B.R. 289 The STATE, ex rel. ROUCH, Appellant, v. EAGLE TOOL & MACHINE CO.; Industrial Commission of Ohio, Appellee.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Appellant, James Rouch, was injured on October 1, 1980 while working for respondent Eagle Tool & Machine Co. He applied for workers' compensation benefits and was awarded temporary total disability compensation from October 2, 1980 through December 27, 1981.

Rouch subsequently filed a motion for additional compensation. After a hearing, Rouch was granted temporary total compensation from December 28, 1981 through January 26, 1982. The hearing officer also granted Rouch temporary partial compensation from January 27, 1982 through March 31, 1982 at a rate of forty percent impairment. The hearing officer stipulated that continuation of Rouch's temporary partial award was contingent upon his submission of wage statements. Both the employer and Rouch appealed to the regional board of review, which affirmed the hearing officer's order.

Rouch then appealed to the appellee, Industrial Commission. The commission initially reviewed his appeal on July 18, 1983 and ordered that Rouch be examined by two doctors from its medical section. Robert L. Turton, D.O., examined Rouch's psychiatric condition. In his report on the results of this examination, Dr. Turton recognized that Rouch complained of, in addition to his psychiatric condition, "[s]acral strain" and "[d]eep contusion of the left hip and left sacroliac [sic ] area and left knee * * *." Further, Dr. Turton reviewed Rouch's medical history, the nature of his physical injuries and the treatment of them. Dr. Turton concluded that Rouch's depression alone would not prevent him from returning to his prior employment.

Dr. H. Tom Reynolds, the other doctor from the commission's medical section, examined relator's physical condition, recognizing that Rouch also complained of depressive neurosis. Dr. Reynolds' report set forth Rouch's medical history and the results of the doctor's physical examination of him. Dr. Reynolds concluded that Rouch could return to his employment and perform light duties consistent with lifting ten pounds frequently, or no more than twenty-five pounds occasionally.

A form submitted by Rouch's treating physician, Dr. Nicholas B. Pavlatos, was also in the record before the commission. Dr. Pavlatos' report consisted of two sentences in which he set forth what Rouch's allowed conditions were and, under a description of "claimant's duties," stated: "Patient is unable to return to his regular work of truck driver as he is unable to bend, lift, stoop, twist and lift heavy items." No objective or subjective clinical findings were provided to support this statement.

Based on the reports of Drs. Turton and Reynolds, and in the absence of any objective physical findings by Dr. Pavlatos, the commission on March 26, 1984 terminated Rouch's compensation for temporary partial disability. The commission apparently rejected Rouch's claim that payment of temporary total compensation be reinstated. Rouch's request for reconsideration was also denied.

On November 19, 1984, Rouch filed a complaint in mandamus in the Court of Appeals for Franklin County. The appellate court assigned the matter to a referee for a hearing. On June 27, 1985, the referee issued his report, recommending that the court issue a writ of mandamus ordering the commission to vacate its order of March 26, 1984, and to reinstate the payment of temporary total disability compensation. The court of appeals rejected the referee's recommendation and, on August 21, 1985, denied Rouch's request for a writ of mandamus.

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

Michael J. Muldoon, Columbus, for appellant.

Jenice R. Golson, Columbus, for appellee.

PER CURIAM.

In order for this court to issue a writ of mandamus, appellant must show that he has a clear legal right to the relief sought, and that the commission has a clear legal duty to provide such relief. See, e.g., State, ex rel. Pressley, v. Indus. Comm. (1967), 11 Ohio St.2d 141, 228 N.E.2d 141 [40 O.O.2d 141]; State, ex rel. Elliott, v. Indus. Comm. (1986), 26 Ohio St.3d 76, 497 N.E.2d 70. To show that a clear legal right to relief exists, appellant must demonstrate that the commission abused its discretion. See, e.g., State, ex rel. Hutton, v. Indus. Comm. (1972), 29 Ohio St.2d 9, 278 N.E.2d 34 [58 O.O.2d 66]; Elliott, supra. This court will not determine that the commission abused its discretion when there is some evidence in the record to support the commission's finding. 1

This court has in the past set forth conditions for when a physician's report assessing impairment would be considered some evidence to support a finding by the commission. In State, ex rel. Anderson, v. Indus. Comm. (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 166, 404 N.E.2d 153 [16 O.O.3d 199], the court decided that the commission, in determining whether a claimant's disability has been caused by the combined effect of two or more allowed conditions, may not consider and rely on a medical report in which the physician does not evaluate the combined effect of all the allowed conditions. In State, ex rel. Teece, v. Indus. Comm. (1981), 68 Ohio St.2d 165, 168, 429 N.E.2d 433 [22 O.O.3d 400], the court modified Anderson by holding that although reports in which an examining physician did not evaluate the combined effect of all the allowed conditions were insufficient to support a commission order, such reports were nevertheless admissible as relevant evidence for the limited purpose of testing the credibility and reliability of reports complying with the Anderson standard. 2 Teece was later undermined in State, ex rel. Thompson, v. Fenix & Scisson, Inc. (1985), 19 Ohio St.3d 76, 77-78, 482 N.E.2d 1241, in which this court held that physicians' reports which did not evaluate the combined effect of all the claimant's allowed conditions did not constitute evidence that the claimant was not disabled. Thompson required a physician who examined the claimant with regard to one allowed condition to expressly adopt the findings of one or more physicians who had examined the claimant with regard to the other allowed conditions. Id. Today we modify the holdings in Anderson and Thompson.

In the case at bar and State, ex rel. Hughes, v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (1986), 26 Ohio St.3d 71, 498 N.E.2d 459, we now recognize that it is impracticable to require, through hypertechnical evidentiary rules, that physicians pretend to be specialists in all fields of medicine. This court should not usurp the role of the commission in determining disability by creating arbitrary exclusionary rules that eliminate evidence the commission may deem credible and relevant. We hold that the Industrial Commission, in determining whether a claimant is disabled due to the combined effect of two or more allowed conditions, may base its finding upon the medical report of a physician who examines the claimant with regard to one of the allowed conditions and recognizes the existence of the other allowed condition(s) by referring to them in his report. We further hold that the commission, in making this disability determination, may consider and rely on a medical report in which an examining physician evaluates a claimant only with regard to the condition that relates to the physician's particular area of expertise. See Teece, supra, 68 Ohio St.2d at 168, 429 N.E.2d 433. The holdings today are consistent with our general obligation to construe the workers' compensation laws in a remedial manner, because the commission will now be able to review a wider range of evidence. The evidence submitted to the commission must be relevant to the issue presented, but the commission, as always, is the ultimate arbiter of the credibility and the weight to be given to submitted evidence.

As a result of the Anderson standard, this court has been inundated with demands from employees and employers alike for mandamus relief. Rather than being based upon traditionally established concerns, 3 many of the complaints for writs deal entirely with purely evidentiary questions. Under the rubric of "abuse of discretion," the complaints have been predicated upon allegations that certain evidence should not have been considered by the commission. Instead of granting appropriate forms of relief such as requiring the commission to reconsider or to further explain its findings as to a given claim, this court has been placed in the incongruous position of compelling the commission to make a finding of disability and to award relief accordingly--a determination which by Constitution and statute should be vested solely within the discretion of the commission. Section 35, Article II, Ohio Constitution; R.C. 4121.131. In light of such circumstances, we decide today to modify Anderson and its progeny.

The extraordinary writ of mandamus will not be issued to interfere with or control the exercise of the Industrial Commission's sound discretion in awarding or denying disability benefits when some evidence in the record supports the commission's finding. In the case at bar, the commission relied upon evidence from doctors who had examined appellant's condition with respect to their particular areas of professional expertise. Each of these doctors expressed an awareness that another allowed condition existed which might have an impact on the commission's ultimate determination of whether appellant was capable of returning to work. Based on the standards set forth above, we hold that the reports of Drs. Turton and Reynolds provide some evidence to support the commission's disallowance of both temporary total and temporary partial disability. Appellant has not demonstrated that the commission abused its discretion or that he has a clear legal right to relief. Therefore, the court of appeals properly denied the issuance of...

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