The Indiana Court of Appeals has issued what, in this author’s humble opinion, could become a landmark decision in the area of Indiana worker compensation law. In Masterbrand Cabinets v. Waid, the Court ruled that an injured employee is entitled to TTD (temporary total disability) benefits even though he was fired for actions unrelated to his injury.
Mr. Waid slipped and injured his lower back while at work. His employer referred him to a physician, who released him to work with no restrictions. Mr. Waid then worked a full day, but claimed it was too painful to continue working. He got into a verbal altercation with his supervisor regarding his back pain and threw an ice pack, nearly hitting another employee. His employer subsequently terminated his employment.
Mr. Waid continued to receive medical treatment but was denied TTD benefits, which the employer argued he was not entitled to since Mr. Waid was unavailable for work for reasons unrelated to the injury (See I.C. 22-3-3-7(c)). The court affirmed the single Hearing Member’s and Full Board’s decisions ordering payment of temporary total disability benefits from the date of injury to the date of decision and ongoing.
It has long been the Board’s position ordering TTD benefits to be paid even if an employee is terminated for reasons unrelated to their injury. The concern, as stated in the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association’s amicus brief filed in the Waid matter, is that “potentially any time an employee disagrees with his employer over temporary total disability…the employer could terminate him claiming employee insubordination.” The Court noted that nowhere does the Act require the available work to be for the same employer as when the employee was injured, and that the relevant inquiry is whether an injured employee’s inability to work, even for other employers, was related to his injury.
The result of this ruling is that even if an injured employee is terminated for cause, unrelated to his injury (i.e. insubordination, fighting, destruction of property, violation of company rules and regulations), if he is unable to work any job because of his injury he will be entitled to TTD benefits.
About the Author
Stephen S. Lavallo, a partner at the law firm Kahn, Dees, Donovan & Kahn, LLP, in Evansville, Indiana, has more than 25 years’ experience in the practice of estate planning and administration law, worker’s compensation defense, business law, and real estate law, and is a certified civil mediator. He represents businesses, both large and small, as well as individuals in a wide variety of business transactions, organization, sales and leasing of properties, and in the defense of companies from worker’s compensation claims. In addition, Steve advises individuals in connection with their estate and wealth transfer planning and during the process of probate and trust administration.