State ex rel. Stephenson v. Industrial Com'n of Ohio

Decision Date08 July 1987
Docket NumberNo. 86-1007,86-1007
Citation509 N.E.2d 946,31 OBR 369,31 Ohio St.3d 167
Parties, 31 O.B.R. 369 The STATE, ex rel. STEPHENSON, Appellee, v. INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION OF OHIO, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Beall, Hermanies, Bortz & Major, John H. Hermanies and Ronald D. Major, Cincinnati, for appellee.

Anthony J. Celebrezze, Jr., Atty. Gen., Janet E. Jackson and Tyrone Yates, Columbus, for appellant.


The primary issue in this case is whether the Industrial Commission had before it some evidence upon which to decide that the relator-claimant was not permanently and totally disabled. We do not pronounce new law in this opinion, but reiterate established law, so as to hopefully clarify the current law of Ohio relative to the jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission to review the claimant's file, and to determine whether there exists sufficient evidence to conclude the ultimate issue. It is basic law, without need of citation, that the Industrial Commission has considerable discretion in the performance of its duties; that its actions are presumed to be valid and performed in good faith and judgment, unless shown to be otherwise; and that so long as there is some evidence in the file to support its findings and orders, this court will not overturn such.

It is also basic law that the purpose of permanent and total disability benefits is to compensate injured persons for impairment of earning capacity. State, ex rel. General Motors Corp., v. Indus. Comm. (1975), 42 Ohio St.2d 278, 71 O.O.2d 255, 328 N.E.2d 387. In determining permanent total disability, the Industrial Commission must evaluate the evidence concerning the degree to which the claimant's ability to work has been impaired. The ultimate consideration is whether the claimant is " 'unfit for sustained remunerative employment.' " (Emphasis deleted.) State, ex rel. Paragon, v. Indus. Comm. (1983), 5 Ohio St.3d 72, 5 OBR 127, 448 N.E.2d 1372. Any conclusion with regard to permanent total disability must address the claimant's ability to work. State, ex rel. Hutt, v. Frick-Gallagher Mfg. Co. (1984), 11 Ohio St.3d 184, 11 OBR 497, 464 N.E.2d 1005.

In making a determination of the degree to which the claimant's ability to work has been impaired, and to answer the query as to whether the claimant is unfit to work at any sustained remunerative employment, the commission must look to a broad number of pertinent factors. It must review all the evidence in the record including the doctors' reports and opinions. The commission must also review any evidence relative to the claimant's age, education, work record, psychological or psychiatric factors if present, and that of a sociological nature. The commission should consider any other factors that might be important to its determination of whether this specific claimant may return to the job market by utilizing her past employment skills, or those skills which may be reasonably developed.

Typically, to gain such insight, the commission relies upon the doctors' reports. These usually include the examination of the claimant and a medical analysis of the physical condition highlighting the allowed injury. The doctors' determination of the severity of the physical condition generally presents a conclusion as to the examinee's percentage of physical impairment of function. Doctors' reports regularly use the words "disability" and "impairment" interchangeably, which use is not in accordance with the Medical Examination Manual issued by the Industrial Commission. However, in the context of the medical report, it may be concluded that reference to the claimant's physical impairment is generally intended. This court, in State, ex rel. Dallas, v. Indus. Comm. (1984), 11 Ohio St.3d 193, 11 OBR 504, 464 N.E.2d 567, and Meeks v. Ohio Brass Co. (1984), 10 Ohio St.3d 147, 10 OBR 482, 462 N.E.2d 389, noted the different meanings of the terms. We pointed out that "impairment" is the amount of a claimant's anatomical and/or mental loss of function and is to be determined by the doctors and set forth within the medical reports. We also noted that "disability" is the effect that the physical impairment has on the claimant's ability to work, which is to be determined by the Industrial Commission and its hearing officers.

Additionally, doctors' reports quite regularly indicate their opinion as to whether a claimant would be able to perform his prior employment functions, or any employment functions. These types of conclusions arguably go beyond the question of impairment and transcend into the job market-disability issue. The fact that a doctor's report offers an opinion as to the ultimate fact to be determined by the commission does not necessarily detract from the reliability of the report. The utilization of the term "disability" by doctors in their reports has been tacitly recognized over the years by this court in our opinions and syllabus law. Yet it remains the ultimate authority and duty of the commission to determine the totality and permanency of the allowed injury. The commission is not required to accept the factual findings stated in a medical report at face value and, without questioning such, adopt the conclusions as those of the commission. This court, in State, ex rel. Teece, v. Indus. Comm. (1981), 68 Ohio...

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