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Workers' Compensation

Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Mental Injury Claim Related to Depression From Inability to Return to Work

Larson's Spotlight on Mental Injury, Termination of Employment, Substantial Certainty, and Going and Coming. Larson's surveys the latest case developments that you need to know about. Thomas A. Robinson, the staff writer for Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, has compiled the list below.

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TN: Mental Injury Claim Related to Depression From Inability To Return To Work Allowed in Spite of Restrictive Statute

Due to the subjective nature of mental injuries, a number of jurisdictions limit or even prohibit the compensability of claims involving such injuries [see Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 56.04].  For example, some states refuse to allow compensation for a mental injury unless it is also accompanied by a physical injury.  Others require that the stimulus which gives rise to the mental injury be sudden and/or unusual.  Some states disqualify claims that are associated with bona fine personnel decisions.  Part of the Tennessee definition of "mental injury" specifically excludes from coverage any "psychological or psychiatric response due to the loss of employment or employment opportunities" [Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-102(15)].  A Tennessee appellate court, construing that statute, recently affirmed an award of medical benefits to a hospital surgical assistant who became severely depressed when he was unable to return to work following a work-related accident.  The employee slipped on a wet floor while helping a patient.  The hospital contended that medical testimony clearly indicated that the employee only became depressed when it became clear he could not return to work and that the employee's mental breakdown occurred shortly after he discovered that he had been terminated.  The appellate court cited earlier case law that held that the "loss of employment" limitation in the statute applied only where the loss of employment or employment opportunities was the sole basis for the mental injury claim.  As with the earlier Tennessee case, the surgical assistant's depression was closely associated with his physical injury.  Additional medical award compensation was appropriate.

See Vowell v. St. Thomas Hospital, 2012 Tenn LEXIS 579 (Aug. 23, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 56.04.

OH: Discharge Following Injured Employee's Unexplained Absence Sinks Claim for Additional Benefits

Where the employer's decision to terminate the employee was based, not on a refusal of a job offer, but rather on the claimant's unexplained absence in the weeks that followed, resulting in a violation of the employer's work rules, there could be no additional TTD compensation, held an Ohio appellate court recently.  Claimant's actions constituted a voluntary abandonment of the employment.

See State ex rel. Jacobs v. Industrial Comm'n, 2012 Ohio 3763, 2012 Ohio App. LEXIS 3338 (Aug. 21, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 84.04.

US: Intentional Tort Action Against Statutory Employer Fails Under "Substantial Certainty" Rule

A federal district court, applying Louisiana law and specifically construing La. R.S. § 23:1061(A), recently held that an injured worker failed to rebut the presumption that the defendant corporation was his statutory employer since the agreement between that defendant and the worker's actual employer specifically indicated that all workers were to be considered statutory employees and the unrebutted evidence showed that the work being performed by the injured worker was an "integral part of or essential to the ability of the [defendant[ to generate [it's] goods, products, or services."   Moreover, the injured worker's allegations failed because there was no indication that there was a substantial certainty that injury would occur based on the actions of the statutory employer.

See Chiasson v. Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121175 (E.D. La., Aug. 27, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 103.04, 111.04. 

CA: Travel to Work at Different Time Due to "Shift-Swapping" Was Not "Special Mission"-Normal Going and Coming Rule Applied

In an unpublished decision, a California appellate court recently held that a prison facility's "shift-swapping" practice that provided some benefit to the employer-in the nature of reduced overtime and administrative work related to shuffling work schedules-did not mean that the travel to the prison facility by the accommodating co-worker was a "special mission."  Accordingly, the normal going and coming rule applied so as to deny compensability for a claim associated with the normal commute.

See California Dep't of Corrections v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (Decourcey), 2012 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6282 (Aug. 28, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 13.01.

Source: Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, the nation's leading authority on workers' compensation law.

Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law

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