This month the Ohio Supreme Court reduced benefits for the most severely injured workers. In State ex rel. Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Service, Inc. v. Indus. Comm. the Court engaged in judicial activism to re-write Ohio law to the detriment of injured workers.
This case dealt with compensation payable to recipients of permanent total disability (“PTD”) compensation. Thus, this case dealt with employees whose injury rendered them unemployable in any capacity. Until now, these workers could receive a small lump sum benefit of permanent partial disability for any medical conditions added to their claim after being deemed PTD.
In this case, the injured worker had been deemed PTD based upon a severe psychological condition in 2010. In 2013, she applied for permanent partial disability based upon the back injury that had not been considered when granting her PTD benefit. The Industrial Commission agreed, and awarded her PPD. Her employer appealed.
The Supreme Court observed that Ohio law did not expressly prohibit the concurrent payment of benefits. Nevertheless, it concluded that since the statute did not explicitly provide for this concurrent payment, then it would not permit injured employees to do so. In so doing, the Court ignored the legislature’s instruction to “liberally construe the workers’ compensation laws in favor of employees.” R.C. § 4123.95.
We have all heard the term judicial activism. This term typically applies when a court makes, rather than interprets, the law. Here, the Supreme Court was concerned that no basis for concurrent jurisdiction existed under the revised code. Yet, in striking these concurrent benefits the Supreme Court was re-writing the law to the detriment of injured workers in Ohio.