Compliance

Injured Worker’s Depression not Compensable Because She did not Return to Work

By Sheena Harrison

Apr. 2, 2012

An Ohio woman who suffered depression because of her work-related injury can’t receive temporary total disability benefits for her psychological condition because she didn’t return to work, an Ohio appellate court ruled last week.

Delores Roxbury worked for Catholic Healthcare Partners when she suffered a lumbar sprain and other injuries at her job in September 2004. She has not returned to work since then, court records show.

Roxbury received TTD benefits until July 2006, when she reached maximum medical improvement, according to filings. She filed a motion in 2007 to regain TTD benefits, based on testimony from a doctor that said she suffered from “a severe level of depression.”

The doctor found that Roxbury’s depression was caused directly by her 2004 work accident, and prevented her from returning to her former position. However, an independent medical expert contended that Roxbury suffered from mild depression, and was not totally disabled by her mental condition.

The Industrial Commission of Ohio denied Roxbury’s TTD petition, based on the expert testimony that said she could work.

The commission also denied a separate permanent total disability petition in 2009 that was filed by Roxbury. The decision was based on testimony from a third doctor, who determined that Roxbury—who was 65 at the time—had not reached maximum medical improvement for her depression and could perform sedentary work.

Roxbury’s attorneys argued she should receive TTD benefits since she was ruled not to be permanently disabled. But the commission denied a subsequent TTD request, in part because she had not attempted to return to work since the 2004 accident.

In a unanimous decision on March 27, a panel of the 10th district Ohio Court of Appeals upheld the commission’s ruling. It agreed that Roxbury’s depression does not qualify her for TTD benefits because she has not re-entered the workforce, even though she is capable of performing sedentary work.

“We cannot say the commission abused its discretion in concluding both that (Roxbury’s) lack of earnings was not due to her psychological condition and that her failure to seek other work or vocational rehabilitation ev idenced her voluntarily abandoning the work force,” the ruling reads.

Sheena Harrison writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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Sheena Harrison writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management.

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