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Trucker due temporary disability benefits despite driving history

Posted On: Mar. 14, 2013 12:00 AM CST

Trucker due temporary disability benefits despite driving history

A truck driver who was fired for having too many traffic citations should receive temporary total disability workers compensation benefits from the traffic accident that cost him his job, the Ohio Supreme Court said.

George H. Haddox was a truck driver for Wellington, Ohio-based Forest City Technologies Inc., court records show. In December 2005, he injured his back in a work-related vehicle accident.

The incident was Mr. Haddox's third vehicle accident in 2005, and Forest City's liability insurer dropped its coverage of Mr. Haddox, records show. Subsequently, the company fired Mr. Haddox in January 2006.

Mr. Haddox applied for TTD benefits related to the December 2005 accident, but a workers comp hearing officer denied benefits to Mr. Haddox, records show. The officer found that Mr. Haddox's termination was a “voluntary abandonment of employment” since he was fired under a company policy that requires termination after three traffic violations.

The Industrial Commission of Ohio later granted TTD benefits to Mr. Haddox for the aggravation of two back conditions related to his latest vehicle accident, records show. However, the commission denied multiple requests from Mr. Haddox to approve TTD benefits from the date of his original injury, ultimately ruling that his loss of earnings was caused by his lack of liability insurance rather than his back injury.

On appeal, Ohio's Court of Appeals for Franklin County ordered the commission to vacate its previous denials of Mr. Haddox's TTD benefits. In its ruling, the appellate court said that Mr. Haddox's moving violations could not be considered a voluntary abandonment of employment because they happened previously or simultaneously to his back injury. The commission appealed.

The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court decision Tuesday in a 4-3 ruling. The high court majority found that Mr. Haddox's firing should not have prevented him from receiving TTD benefits from his date of injury.

“Because Haddox was discharged for the same misconduct that caused his industrial injury, the discharge was not tantamount to a voluntary abandonment of employment that precludes temporary total disability compensation,” the opinion reads.