Voluntary retirement prevents supervisor from collecting benefits
Case name: Olsen v. Labor Commission, No. 20100163-CA (Utah Ct. App. 03/10/11).
Ruling: The Utah Court of Appeals held that a supervisor was not entitled to permanent total disability benefits because his retirement was primarily motivated by factors other than his work-related injury.
What it means: In Utah, the fact that an employee returned to work following his industrial injury does not prevent him from claiming PTD benefits if he continues to suffer substantial pain throughout the period of his employment or if his injury worsens to the point that he is no longer able to maintain regular employment.
Summary: A supervisor's arm was caught in a conveyor belt while he was attempting to clear away debris. As a result, his arm was amputated. The worker continued to work until his retirement at the age of 62. Twenty years after he retired and 43 years after the accident, he sought permanent total disability benefits. The worker said he had constant pain in his arm. The employer contested the claim, arguing that his disability was not the result of the work-related accident since he worked to retirement age following the incident. The Utah Court of Appeals held that the supervisor was not entitled to PTD benefits.
The court found that the supervisor's difficulties in his personal and work life were mitigated by his development of "adaptive techniques." Also, his decision to retire was voluntary. Several factors besides the worker's pain motivated his decision. He reached an age when he qualified for his company pension and Social Security retirement benefits. He also had numerous nonwork-related medical problems.
The court also found that although the supervisor presented some evidence that his injury kept him from continuing his job with the employer, he failed to show that he could not be rehabilitated to perform other work. The court noted that the supervisor worked as a consultant for the employer after his retirement.
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April 21, 2011
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