Termination of Pdt When Claimant Had Not Participated In Any Significant Activity Inconsistent With His Medical Restrictions
Was Termination of PDT of Claimant Incorrect As He Had Not Participated In Any Significant Activity Inconsistent With His Medical Restrictions ?
In ex rel. Lawson v. Mondie Forge, 104 Ohio St.3d 39, 2004 Ohio 6086, 817 N.E.2d 880, the commission terminated PTD based on a spreadsheet documenting 207 activities the claimant had performed between the years 1993 and 2001 even though he had been awarded PTD based on restrictions limiting him only to low stress sedentary jobs.
The Lawson court found that, while some of the activities in which the claimant engaged were outside the scope of his restrictions, the vast majority were not, and thus held that the evidence did not establish a pattern of behavior demonstrating the ability to perform sustained remunerative employment. Lawson, supra, at P34.
In Lawson, the claimant, Donald E. Lawson, did heavy labor throughout his working career. During much of his time, Lawson was also a council member of the Village of West Elkton, Ohio, a community of approximately 270 people.
In 1985, Lawson was awarded PTD compensation after the commission concluded that the low stress sedentary job to which his allowed conditions limited him were foreclosed to anyone with his lack of skills and education. In 2001, the bureau opened an investigation into Lawson's PTD status. According to the Lawson court:
The most extensive documentation was an "activity spreadsheet" that contained 207 activities engaged in by the claimant from 1993 through 2001, almost all allegedly for the benefit of the village. the predominant activity listed was refuse disposal, which will be explained more fully below. Each year, claimant also put up flags in village streets for July 4th, Labor Day, and Memorial Day. Other miscellaneous activities included plowing snow, purchasing hardware and gas, unspecified truck and plow maintenance, and hauling gravel. the parties agree that claimant did almost all of this work for free, receiving from the village a salary of at most $200 to $300 per year for his council activities plus a bonus amounting to $6 per hour for plowing. Id. at P4.
The bureau moved to terminate PTD compensation, for a declaration of an overpayment and fraud. Ultimately, the commission granted the bureau's motion.
The commission found that Lawson had "engaged in physical activities since 1993 which demonstrates that he is capable of performing sustained remunerative employment."
The commission found that the "evidence substantiates a regular pattern of work activity over the past nine years, some of which was physical activity well in excess of the sedentary restrictions relied on in the decision to grant the injured worker's permanent total disability application." Id. at P12.
The Lawson court, however, found the evidence to be insufficient to support the commission's decision. the Lawson court explained:
This prohibition against viewing activities out of context applies even more forcefully here. Some of the randomly logged activities were beyond claimant's restrictions.
The vast majority of the cited activities, however, were not. Claimant's 1993 through 2001 activity spreadsheet has 207 confirmed activities, none of which contains sufficient information to conclusively establish that any of them conflicted with claimant's restrictions.
The predominant activity listed on the spreadsheet, for example, is refuse disposal, but there is no evidence that claimant did anything other than drive a truck--an activity within claimant's sedentary limitations. There was no proof contradicting claimant's testimony that others loaded the truck, nor is there evidence indicating the weight and contents thereof.
Only the video surveillance log-and supposedly the full tape-demonstrates that claimant did some lifting, and while some of that lifting exceeded claimant's restrictions, most of it did not. Only claimant's assistance in lifting a mower and a couch could conclusively be said to exceed his medical limitations. the balance of the log entries listed miscellaneous debris of unspecified weight or objects expressly denominated as small.
Evidence of other activities is similarly deficient. Three times a year claimant put up flags for federal holidays. No one has alleged more than light exertion. Other activities included driving a snowplow, buying hardware or gas, hauling gravel, and even buying an unspecified six-pack. None of these entries demonstrates work beyond sedentary.
The prevailing spreadsheet activity is refuse disposal. As the evidence shows, however, months passed without any record of claimant hauling trash. Other periods recorded only minimal activity. Between June 30, 1997, and March 30, 1998, for example, claimant made only five trips to the landfill. the same is true from July 31, 2000, to March 1, 2001, and May 31, 1996, to November 30, 1996.
Of 71 months recorded, only five saw more than four trips in any given month. Evidence regarding claimant's other activities is even more scant. He plowed snow three times between 1994 and 2001. He purchases gas 12 times during these years and 12 times hauled gravel.
Unquestionably, the commission has substantial leeway in both interpreting and drawing inferences from the evidence before it.
This evidentiary latitude, on the other hand, is not unlimited and, in this case, does not permit the conclusion that claimant's actions constituted a pattern of sustained behavior.
It also does not permit the conclusion that claimant engaged in significant activity inconsistent with his medical restrictions. Id. at P24-26, 29, 34.