Ohio Supreme Court Rules On Applicability of Dual Intent Doctrine When Determining Eligibility For Workers’ Compensation Benefits

On October 21, 2014, the Supreme Court of Ohio in Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Assn. of Mid-Ohio addressed whether the doctrine of dual intent or dual purpose is applicable when determining eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits in Ohio. The Court reversed the Fifth District Court of Appeals and held that the dual intent doctrine is not recognizable when determining eligibility, and remanded the case to the trial court. Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Assn. of Mid-Ohio, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-4531.

In Friebel, the appellee Tamara Friebel traveled from home to different work sites in her personal vehicle. On one occasion, Friebel transported family members and friends to a personal destination in route to her work destination. Friebel’s car was then hit from behind while stopped at a traffic light, before dropping the passengers off at their destination. Friebel sought workers’ compensation benefits following the accident.

An injury is compensable under Ohio’s workers’ compensation statute if it occurred both “in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment.” R.C. 4123.01(C). Some jurisdictions allow an injured worker to collect workers’ compensation when traveling for both business and personal purposes, reasoning that the worker’s “dual-intent” will not preclude recovery if the work of the employee creates the necessity for travel. The Fifth District Court of Appeals stated that even though Friebel “dually intended” to both travel to her work site and drop her passengers off, she was not disqualified from being “in the course of employment,” because the accident occurred prior to the travel deviation.

The Supreme Court rejected this interpretation and held that the doctrine of dual intent is not recognizable in Ohio for purposes of determining eligibility under the Ohio workers’ compensation statute. The Court’s holding shows an unwillingness to extend eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits to activities that are not clearly “in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment.” Going forward, Ohio courts will now have a more focused approach to analyzing workers’ compensation eligibility.

Additional Information

For additional information, please contact Patrick Peters at ppeters@beneschlaw.com or 216.363.4434 or Joe Gross at jgross@beneschlaw.com or 216.363.4163.

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