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Supreme Court Takes Yet Another Look at Retirement and Voluntary Abandonment

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The State ex rel. Black v. Indus. Comm. Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-4550

Claimant injured his back in 2000. His physician returned him to modified duty on December 13, 2000 and after one month to return to full duty. On December 11, 2000, the claimant notified his employer that he intended to retire on February 28, 2001. Medical near the time of his retirement indicated that he could still perform modified duty with an increased weight restriction which was related to non-allowed groin pain. He retired at age 55 with 38 years of service. Following his retirement he did not seek vocational training or seek other employment. On September 2001, he began receiving social security disability benefits.   A Hearing Officer denied his application for permanent total disability in 2009, finding that there was no medical evidence that any physician had advised him to retire because of his allowed injuries and he had made no attempt to return to work. The Court of Appeals ruled that the case should be sent back to the Industrial Commission for an order properly determining the Claimant’s eligibility. The Supreme Court found that the Hearing Officer’s order contained some evidence supporting the decision, reversed the court of appeal and upheld the denial of the permanent total disability application.

Lesson Learned:   For those dealing with permanent total disability and retirement/voluntary abandonment it is crucial to determine if there is medical evidence at or near the time of separation which specifically, states that the allowed conditions of the claim prevent a return to work.

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