Workers’ Comp Eye Injury Claim Reinstatement Upheld

July 16, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that a furniture company employee was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for total loss of vision in one eye after an industrial mishap.

The state’s high court agreed with a lower appellate court that Millard Thomas was due the benefits even though a post-injury corneal surgery corrected sight in the affected eye back to where it was prior to the injury.

According to the opinion in State ex rel. La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries vs. Thomas, Thomas had 20/200 vision after being afflicted with a corneal disease. A 2005 corneal transplant reverted his sight to 20/50, but the 2006 accident damaged the transplant, causing his vision to go back to 20/200. Additional surgery after the injury restored it to 20/50. An Ohio law states that worker loss-of-sight awards should be based on the employee’s uncorrected vision, court records show.

When Thomas applied for the workers compensation benefits for total vision loss in the affected eye, La-Z-Boy argued that a loss had not occurred because Thomas’s uncorrected vision was the same, 20/200, after the injury as it was before.

The appeals court asserted that previous cases relied on uncorrected vision to measure vision loss, but ruled instead that denying the Thomas claims would amount to using a “nonallowed” health condition, under Ohio law, to defeat the application.

The Ohio Supreme Court opinion is here.

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