Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co. et al., No. 2012-0244 (Ohio 06/04/13).
Ruling: The Ohio Supreme Court held that a driver was not entitled to benefits for his post-traumatic stress disorder.
What it means: In Ohio, for a mental condition to be compensable under workers' compensation, a compensable physical injury sustained by the worker must have caused the mental condition.
Summary: A driver was operating a one-ton dump truck within the course of employment when a vehicle struck the truck from behind. The driver saw fluid leaking from the vehicles and was afraid that the vehicles would catch fire. He also noticed the driver of the other vehicle was not moving and blood was coming from his nose. He was treated in the emergency room for his physical injuries. While in the emergency room, he learned that the other driver had died. The driver's workers' compensation claim for his back and neck injuries was allowed. He requested an additional allowance for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Ohio Supreme Court held that he was not entitled to benefits for his PTSD.
The court explained that psychiatric conditions are excluded from the definition of "injury" except where the worker's psychiatric conditions arose from an injury or occupational disease sustained by the worker. The court found that the language "arisen from" contemplated a causal connection between the mental condition and a worker's compensable physical injury. In this case, there was conflicting evidence regarding whether the driver's physical injuries were a contributing cause of his PTSD. Therefore, the court found his PTSD was not compensable.
The court rejected the driver's argument that a psychiatric condition with contemporaneous physical injury is compensable. The court also said that an argument that requiring a worker to prove a causal connection would make recovery "nearly impossible" should be addressed to the legislature.
Two dissenting judges opined that a direct causal link between physical and psychological injuries should not be required.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 9, 2013
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