Employee cleared to receive benefits when pre-injury vision was corrected
State ex rel. La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries v. Thomas, et al., No. 2009-1706 (Ohio 07/13/10).
Ruling: The Ohio Supreme Court held that an injured employee's preinjury vision should be measured at the corrected level reached by preinjury surgery. This allowed an employee who sustained an eye injury that caused his vision to be impaired to a pre-transplant level to collect loss-of-vision benefits.
What it means: In Ohio, preinjury vision can be measured by the levels achieved by preinjury surgery. Postinjury vision is measured by uncorrected vision.
Summary: An employee had a history of keratoconus, which causes the cornea to thin and bulge and can significantly impair vision. The employee had a corneal transplant that corrected his vision from 20/200 to 20/50. While working, the employee injured his eye and lost his transplant, causing his vision to be impaired to the pre-transplant levels of 20/200. He had a new corneal transplant which returned his vision to 20/50. The employee sought workers' compensation. The Ohio Supreme Court held that the Industrial Commission correctly used the employee's 20/50 vision as the measure of his preinjury vision, allowing the employee to collect loss-of-vision benefits.
The employer argued that the employee's uncorrected vision was 20/200 both before and after the injury, so the employee suffered no loss. In Ohio, uncorrected vision is the standard by which postinjury vision was measured. Courts characterize corneal implants as mere corrections to vision that cannot be used to determine postinjury visual acuity. The parties agreed that the postinjury vision was 20/200, but they disagreed over the measure of preinjury vision.
The court was concerned about situations in which the preinjury correction significantly predated the work-related injury. The court stated that there may be "situations in which the appropriate measure of preinjury vision could require a more flexible approach," even when the preinjury correction did not significantly precede the work-related injury.
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September 27, 2010
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