State v. Koch Foods of Cincinnati, LLC, 14AP-267

Decision Date31 March 2015
Docket NumberNo. 14AP-267,14AP-267
Citation2015 Ohio 1226
CourtOhio Court of Appeals
PartiesState of Ohio ex rel. Emilia Escajadillo, Relator, v. Koch Foods of Cincinnati, LLC and Industrial Commission of Ohio, Respondents.

(REGULAR CALENDAR)

DECISION

Evans Law Office and Marquette D. Evans, for relator.

Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP, and Joan M. Verchot, for respondent Koch Foods of Cincinnati, LLC.

Michael DeWine, Attorney General, and Patsy A. Thomas, for respondent Industrial Commission of Ohio.

IN MANDAMUS ON OBJECTIONS TO THE MAGISTRATE'S DECISION

LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

{¶ 1} Relator, Emilia Escajadillo ("Escajadillo"), has filed this original action requesting that this court issue a writ of mandamus ordering respondent Industrial Commission of Ohio ("commission") to vacate its order which denied her request for temporary total disability ("TTD") compensation, and ordering the commission to find that she is entitled to that compensation.

{¶ 2} The court referred this matter to a magistrate pursuant to Civ.R. 53(C) and Loc.R. 13(M) of the Tenth District Court of Appeals. The magistrate issued the appendeddecision, including findings of fact and conclusions of law, and recommended this court deny Escajadillo's request for a writ of mandamus.

I. Facts and Procedural History

{¶ 3} As more fully set forth in the magistrate's decision, Escajadillo sustained a work-related injury on April 3, 2010, and her workers' compensation claim was initially allowed for sciatica. Beginning April 17, 2010, Escajadillo received TTD compensation. Escajadillo received TTD compensation until it was determined that her allowed condition of sciatica had reached maximum medical improvement ("MMI"). Escajadillo's TTD compensation was terminated on April 4, 2011. Before Escajadillo's TTD compensation was terminated, she filed a motion to amend her claim to include the condition of L4-5 disc protrusion. On January 19, 2012, the Butler County Court of Common Pleas entered an agreed judgment entry determining that the condition of L4-5 disc protrusion was causally related to Escajadillo's April 3, 2010 injury and, thus, became an allowed condition in her claim.

{¶ 4} In view of the newly allowed condition, Escajadillo requested a new period of TTD compensation from April 5, 2011 through April 25, 2012. A District Hearing Officer ("DHO") granted Escajadillo's request for a new period of TTD compensation. But a Staff Hearing Officer ("SHO") subsequently denied the request for a new period of TTD compensation. The SHO concluded that the medical evidence was not sufficient to demonstrate that the additional condition of L4-5 disc protrusion constituted a new and changed circumstance warranting the reinstatement of TTD compensation for the period of April 5, 2011, through April 25, 2012. The commission refused Escajadillo's appeal.

{¶ 5} On September 11, 2012, Escajadillo requested her workers' compensation claim include the conditions of "depressive disorder, nos and pain disorder associated with both psychological factors and general medical condition." Following a hearing before a DHO on December 6, 2012, Escajadillo's workers' compensation claim was additionally allowed for the condition of major depression, moderate severity. This condition remained allowed despite appeals by Escajadillo's employer. Thereafter, Escajadillo requested TTD compensation beginning August 22, 2012, based on the condition of major depression, moderate severity. Following a hearing before a DHO on September 5, 2013, Escajadillo's request for TTD compensation beginning August 22,2012 was denied. Escajadillo appealed the decision, and the appeal was heard before an SHO on October 12, 2013. The SHO affirmed the DHO order. Further appeal was refused by order of the commission. Escajadillo thereafter filed this mandamus action.

{¶ 6} On September 23, 2014, the magistrate issued a decision recommending this court deny Escajadillo's request for a writ of mandamus. Pursuant to Civ.R. 53, Escajadillo filed objections to the magistrate's decision.

II. Objections to Magistrate's Decision

{¶ 7} Escajadillo sets forth the following objections to the magistrate's decision:

1. The Magistrate erred in failing to enter a writ directing the Industrial Commission to award Relator temporary total disability compensation for the period from April 5, 2011 through April 25, 2012.
2. The Magistrate erred in failing to enter a writ directing the Industrial Commission to award Relator temporary total disability compensation for the period from August 22, 2012 through September 5, 2013.
III. Discussion
A. First Objection - April 5, 2011 through April 25, 2012

{¶ 8} Escajadillo's first objection relates to the commission's denial of TTD compensation from April 5, 2011 through April 25, 2012. Escajadillo argues the magistrate erroneously concluded there was some evidence to support the order of the commission denying the request for TTD compensation for this period of time.

{¶ 9} The commission based its decision to deny Escajadillo's request for TTD compensation from April 5, 2011 through April 25, 2012 on the medical reports of Drs. Jay L. Blatnik and Steven R. Rodgers and the office notes of Dr. Dan Buchanan. Escajadillo argued that Dr. Blatnik's March 14, 2012 report did not constitute some evidence upon which the commission could properly rely in denying her request because Dr. Blatnik relied almost exclusively on the report of Dr. Robert L. Boyer. Dr. Boyer's January 31, 2011 report, which indicated that the allowed condition of sciatica had reached MMI, was completed before the allowance of the claim for the condition of L4-5 disc protrusion. Dr. Blatnik's report incorrectly states that Dr. Boyer's report indicated that MMI had been obtained for the "allowed conditions." In view of this misstatement, Escajadillo also argues that Dr. Blatnik's report could not constitute some evidence uponwhich the commission could properly rely, arguing that Dr. Blatnik misunderstood Dr. Boyer's MMI conclusion.

{¶ 10} As the magistrate noted, Dr. Blatnik's report was not based exclusively on Dr. Boyer's report but was based on all the medical evidence, including MRIs, numerous medical reports, and the chronology of Escajadillo's symptoms and the medical findings. Moreover, Dr. Blatnik expressly accepted the allowance of the condition of L4-5 disc protrusion in his report, and his report reflected his independent opinion that the medical evidence in the file demonstrated Escajadillo had reached MMI. Therefore, we find the magistrate correctly determined there was some evidence to support the commission's decision that Escajadillo was not entitled to TTD compensation for the period of April 5, 2011 through April 25, 2012. For these reasons, we overrule Escajadillo's first objection.

B. Second Objection - August 22, 2012 through September 5, 2013

{¶ 11} Escajadillo's second objection relates to the commission's denial of her request for TTD compensation from August 22, 2012 through September 5, 2013. Escajadillo generally asserts that the magistrate erroneously failed to conclude that she is entitled to a writ of mandamus ordering the commission to award her TTD compensation for this period based on her allowed psychological condition.

{¶ 12} The commission denied Escajadillo's request for TTD compensation beginning August 22, 2012 for two independent reasons. First, the commission determined Escajadillo was not part of the workforce at the time of the alleged disability, thereby precluding TTD compensation. The commission relied on Escajadillo's testimony that she had not worked in any capacity since four days after her injury on April 3, 2010, that she had not looked for any work since the date of the injury, that she was 69 years of age at the time of the SHO decision, and that she had elected to receive Social Security retirement benefits commencing April 2011. Second, the commission determined Escajadillo failed to meet her burden of demonstrating she was medically entitled to payment of TTD compensation as of August 22, 2012. The commission found that the report of Escajadillo's treating psychologist, Dr. Roberto Madrigal, indicated Escajadillo was disabled on the basis of a non-allowed condition. Consequently, the commission concluded Escajadillo was not entitled to TTD compensation beginning August 22, 2012.

{¶ 13} In recommending the court deny the writ as to the TTD compensation request relating to Escajadillo's allowed psychological condition, the magistrate determined that the two reasons provided by the commission for denying the requested TTD compensation are supported by the record. First, the magistrate found that there is some evidence in the record that Escajadillo had abandoned the workforce, which precluded the requested TTD compensation. Second, the magistrate determined that the commission did not abuse its discretion when it found Escajadillo's evidence to be insufficient to support her request for TTD compensation beginning August 22, 2012.

{¶ 14} Escajadillo argues there is no evidence in the record demonstrating she retired or otherwise exited the workforce. Escajadillo asserts that all the medical evidence in the record demonstrates her inability to return to her former position of employment during the relevant time period. Escajadillo argues that the cases relied upon by the magistrate relating to workforce abandonment are inapposite because the underlying facts in those cases were significantly different than the facts found here. Lastly, Escajadillo argues the fact that she applied for Social Security retirement benefits is irrelevant to determining whether her absence from the workforce was her personal choice or was caused by her industrial injury.

{¶ 15} R.C. 4123.56 provides for TTD compensation when an industrial injury prevents a claimant from performing the duties of his or her position of employment. State ex rel. Baker v. Indus. Comm., 89 Ohio St.3d 376, 380 (2000). The purpose...

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