Workers' Compensation Covers Psychiatric Injury; No Need for Physical Manifestations or Impact Accompanying Psychic Loss. (Recent Court Decisions)

Article excerpt

Bailey v. Republic Engineered Steels, Inc., 91 Ohio St. 3d 38; 741 N.E.2d 121 (Ohio Supreme Court--February 7, 2001)

Leonard Bailey was operating a tow motor when he accidentally ran over and killed a coworker at Republic Engineered Steels. Bailey became severely depressed as a result of the accident and required treatment. When he sought compensation pursuant to Ohio's workers' compensation law, he was denied at all administrative levels.

The relevant statutory section states that a compensable injury "does not include... [p]sychiatric conditions except where the conditions have arisen from an injury or occupational disease." See Ohio R.C. 4123.01(C)(1).

The Bureau of Workers' Compensation took the view that Bailey had not sustained a compensable injury as required by statute. When Bailey continued to attempt to obtain benefits, the trial court also rebuffed him. However, the intermediate court of appeals was more receptive, finding for Bailey but with a resolve uncertain enough to certify the issue for Ohio Supreme Court review. The Ohio Supreme Court clarified the reach of workers' compensation benefits when it held that "a psychiatric condition of an employee arising from a compensable injury or occupational disease suffered by a third person is compensable" under the law.

The plain reading of the statute reveals that the intent of the General Assembly is to limit claims for psychiatric conditions to situations in which the conditions arise from an injury or occupational disease. However, [the statute] does not specify who must be injured or who must sustain an occupational disease.

91 Ohio St. 3d at 40, 741 N.E.2d at 123.

After reviewing the history, theory, and purpose of workers' compensation laws (where strict liability is imposed but benefits are limited in a compromise between labor and management interests), the court concluded that the statute must be construed in favor of the claimant and at least not construed so as to add limitations on recovery that are not in the text of the statute. …


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