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On October 11, 2012, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued its opinion in State ex rel. Rouan v. Indus. Comm.  The Court determined that the appellant, Rouan, was not entitled to Temporary Total Disability Benefits (TT) through her workers’ compensation claim after taking a disability retirement from work. 

Rouan began receiving TT in 2004 following a work-related injury.  She then applied for a disability retirement based on “major depressive disorder,” a condition that was not related to her work-related injury.  The work-related injury claim conditions reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) in May of 2005, while her application for a disability retirement was later approved and then backdated to February 1, 2005. However, Rouan did not re-enter the workplace after she retired. 

In 2007, Rouan then applied for Permanent Total Disability under her workers’ compensation claim.  This application was denied as the Ohio Industrial Commission found that the conditions in Rouan’s workers’ compensation claim did not preclude her from remunerative employment. 

Rouan’s workers’ compensation claim then became further recognized for two additional conditions and she requested TT.  This request was also denied.  The Ohio Industrial Commission found that Rouan voluntarily abandoned her employment when she took her disability retirement. 

On further appeal, the Supreme Court of Ohio stated that the two leading considerations in cases like Rouan’s are “(1) was the retirement precipitated by the workplace injury and (2) did the claimant remain in the work force after retiring?” In this case, Rouan’s retirement was related to a condition that was outside of her work-related injury and she never re-entered the work force.  Accordingly, the Court determined the denial of TT was appropriate as Rouan’s retirement annulled the causal relationship between her work-related injury and her absence from the workforce. 

As this case shows, it is important for employers and their workers’ compensation partners to pay close attention to all of the conditions affecting an employee’s ability to work, not just the condition that spawned the workers’ compensation claim.  Such attention can be critical in limiting an employer’s workers’ compensation responsibilities.

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