Psychiatric Exclusion Unconstitutional

Psychiatric Exclusion Unconstitutional

Posted: June, 2004

McCrone v. Bank One Corp. (5/17/04), Stark App. No. 2003CA-92, 2004-Ohio-2538:

NOTE: In December, 2005, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed this Court of Appeals’ decision.

Issue: Is the R.C. 4123.01(C)(1) exclusion of psychiatric-only injuries unconstitutional?

Background: McCrone suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after a robbery at the bank where she worked. She suffered no physical injury.

McCrone filed for workers’ compensation. Her claim was denied administratively based on R.C. 4123.01(C)(1), which excludes psychiatric injuries from workers’ compensation coverage if there is no physical injury (or occupational disease).

McCrone appealed pursuant to R.C. 4123.512. The trial court found R.C. 4123.01(C)(1) unconstitutional and found McCrone entitled to workers’ compensation. The employer appealed.

Decision: Court of Appeals affirms.

The Court reviews a number of decisions from other districts finding the exclusion constitutional and notes that the only justification given for the psychiatric exclusion in those cases is an economic justification — conserving the fund. The Court points out that the Ohio Supreme Court has recognized that this is not a valid reason for excluding an injury from workers’ compensation coverage.

The Court states:

We find no rational basis upon which to discriminate between psychological injuries arising from a physical injury to the claimant or a co-worker and those which are purely psychological in nature. Both have suffered a work related injury and both should be entitled to Workers’ Compensation, assuming they can otherwise support their claim.

Therefore, the Court finds the R.C. 4123.01(C)(1) psychiatric exclusion unconstitutional.

Editor’s Comment: This Court had previously declared the psychiatric exclusion unconstitutional in Bailey v. Republic Engineered Steels, Inc., Stark App. No. 1999CA-00084. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on appeal that the injury to a third party in Bailey satisfied the statutory requirement. Therefore, the Ohio Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the exclusion.

A different panel of this Court found the psychiatric exclusion constitutional earlier this year in Wood v. Ohio State Highway Patrol (4/01/04), Tuscarawas App. No. 2003AP-09-75, 2004-Ohio-1765.

The Court in the present case recognized that there is no just reason for a distinction between a psychiatric injury (1) caused by a physical injury to the psychiatric claimant, which is compensable under the statute; (2) caused by a physical injury to a co-employee, which is compensable under the Supreme Court’s Bailey decision; and (3) caused by a work incident which does not cause any physical harm.

The Court also indicated in its opinion

the denial of compensation of employees who suffer psychiatric conditions which do not arise from a compensable injury to or occupational disease suffered by that employee is inherently unfair and contrary to the purposes of compensating workers as set forth in Section 35, Article II of the Ohio Constitution

Information courtesy of the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin. Subscribe to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin to keep informed about the Ohio workers’ compensation system.