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Cincinnati, Ohio Workers’ Compensation Awards for Permanent Partial Disability and Permanent Total Disability

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Jennifer Tressler, who is pursuing her Juris Doctorate at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Below is a case study used by law students to teach them about the difference between Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD). By reading it, you may learn which of these applies to your Workers’ Compensation claim!

What Injuries Led This Cincinnati Woman to File for Workers’ Compensation?

Sherry Redwine was injured at work on August 13, 2003. She filed a workers’ compensation claim for lumbosacral strain, radiculopathy right lower extremity, aggravation of pre-existing degenerative disc disease, depression, and ruptured disc at L4-5 with free disc fragment and applied for permanent-total disability compensation. It was determined that she was now unable to perform any sustainable employment due to the medical impairment caused by her psychological condition, and thus she was awarded benefits to continue until her death.

In August 2013, Ms. Redwine applied for permanent-partial disability compensation. While she admitted that she was not entitled permanent-partial disability compensation for her psychological condition (which she had already been awarded permanent-total disability compensation for), she stated that she was entitled to this award based on her physical conditions. Her application was denied by a district hearing officer, who noted that her physical and psychological impairments were a result of the same workplace injury, saying therefore that she would be unable to collect both permanent partial disability and permanent total disability for the same injury. A staff hearing officer reconsidered her case and decided that claimants would not be barred from collecting both types of compensation provided that the conditions for which s/he is seeking permanent-partial disability were not the basis for which the permanent-total disability had been awarded.

In response to this, Ms. Redwine’s employer, Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, Inc. (OPRS), filed a complaint alleging that there was no evidence or authority to base this decision upon, but their complaint was denied. OPRS then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Their appeal contains references to three different Ohio statutes (O.R.C. 4123.95, O.R.C. 4123.58, O.R.C. 4123.57(A)). The Supreme Court was concerned with the Industrial Commission’s interpretation of these statutes. In the event that the Commission is found to have misinterpreted a statute, the Court has the authority to issue something called a writ of mandamus to correct the misinterpretation.

How Do Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Actually Work?

The Industrial Commission is authorized to pay permanent-partial disability compensation to employees who suffer an injury or disease that result in a permanent partial disability and is intended to cover employees who can still work. Permanent-partial disability compensation comes in two forms: (1) compensation for a specific loss and (2) compensation based on the percentage of permanent disability pursuant to O.R.C. 4123.57(A), which is the type of compensation at issue in Ms. Redwine’s case. For the latter type of compensation, a district hearing officer determines the percentage of disability based on evidence submitting at a hearing, with compensation based upon the employee’s wages.

Permanent-total disability is also calculated based upon an employee’s wages and lasts until the employee’s death. The purpose of this type of compensation is to provide injured workers with compensation for loss of earning potential resulting from their injury or disease. This type of compensation also has two categories: (1) compensation for loss of body parts and (2) compensation for a workplace injury that prevents the employee from obtaining future lucrative employment, which is the type of compensation at issue in Ms. Redwine’s case.

The rules of statutory interpretation that the Supreme Court of Ohio is bound by are that they must determine and attribute the legislative intent, that the legislative intent must be determined primarily from the language of the statute itself, and if the statute is unambiguous, they must apply the statute as written. It is also mandated that workers’ compensation laws be construed in favor of employees.

Keeping these rules in mind, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s main issue was to decide whether the Industrial Commission has the authority to grant concurrent compensation of permanent-partial disability and permanent-total disability under O.R.C. 4123.57(A) and O.R.C. 4123.58, respectively. They held that the Industrial Commission does not have this authority.

The Court’s reasoning is that the language of the statutes is so plain and unambiguous that they are forced to apply the language of the statutes as written. Since there is no language in the workers’ compensation statutes that specifically allow for concurrent payment of permanent-partial disability and permanent-total disability compensation, the Court was unable to find for Ms. Redwine. The Industrial Commission argued that the statutes do not specifically prohibit concurrent payments in the same claim, but the Court countered by pointing out precedent that an injured employee only has the right the recover workers’ compensation benefits allowed by statute. The Court says that if the legislature intended to allow injured workers to concurrently receive permanent-partial disability and permanent-total disability payments in the same claim, it could easily have included it in the statutes. The Industrial Commission maintained that the statutes neglecting to comment on the issue of concurrent payment creates an ambiguity in the statutory language that must be decided in the workers’ favor, but the Supreme Court of Ohio reasons that the omission was intentional. Per Ms. Redwine’s request, the Court reopened her case for further consideration, but after hearing oral arguments on both sides, the Court adhered to their decision.

How Can Greater Cincinnati Residents Get the Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD) They Deserve?

What does this mean for workers injured on the job? Being unable to concurrently collect both permanent-partial disability compensation and permanent-total disability compensation will reduce benefits able to be collected by the most severely injured workers on the job. Workers like Ms. Redwine, who suffered both extensive physical and extensive mental injuries during her employment, will need to choose whether to apply for permanent-partial disability compensation or permanent-total disability compensation, as they will be unable to successfully apply for and receive both types of compensation. This may sound overwhelming, or even scary, but do not be afraid to reach out for help!

If you have been injured on the job like Ms. Redwine, contact Lawrence & Associates today. We can help you explore options to get the workers’ compensation you deserve! Call today for a free consultation at (513) 351-5997. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!