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Will the Voluntary Abandonment Defense Still Work in Ohio?

It may not be effective for employers to lean on this at Industrial Commission hearings after modifications were made to the Ohio Revised Code last year.

A House Bill made changes to Revised Code (R.C.) 4123.56, which became effective in September 2022. This part of the R.C. clarifies eligibility for Temporary Total Disability (TTD) compensation in workers’ comp claims. It was meant to provide clarity following the decades of case law that had complicated the “voluntary abandonment” defense often used by employers when a claimant takes voluntary action to end their employment. While the statute reads clearly enough, the changes resulted in ambiguity due to lack of detail. Ohio BWC or the Industrial Commission will often issue a clarification following such changes – but that didn’t happen this time.

On March 2, 2023, the Tenth District Court of Appeals in Columbus issued a decision in State ex rel. Autozone Stores, Inc. v. Industrial Commission that could have a broad impact for Ohio employers. This was the first time an appellate court weighed in on the application of 4123.56(F) in a TTD claim, and it wasn’t a favorable ruling for businesses. Essentially, the ruling allowed the claimant to continue collecting TTD even though they were able to work with restrictions (for a different employer). The potential impact of this decision could hold employers hostage with no defense in TTD claims, driving up both EMRs and premiums for Ohio businesses.

If you’d like to read more about the case surrounding this and its implications, click here.

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