ALP: Are psychological or psychiatric conditions compensable under Ohio workers’ compensation law when they do not arise from a physical injury or occupational disease?

April 2006

No. Ohio’s workers’ compensation definitional statute specifically excludes from coverage “psychological or psychiatric-only claims” except where the conditions have arisen from a compensable physical injury or occupational disease.

After developing post-traumatic stress disorder but sustaining no physical injuries as a result of a bank robbery, Kimberly McCrone challenged Ohio’s statute as unconstitutional. McCrone argued the exclusion of psychological injuries from workers’ compensation coverage violated the equal protection clauses of the Ohio and U.S. Constitutions. The lower courts agreed with McCrone.

Reversing these decisions, the Ohio Supreme Court held the statute does not violate the Ohio and U.S. Constitutions. McCrone v. Bank One Corp. (2005), 107 Ohio St.3d 272. The Court reaffirmed its position that “in the absence of a clearly expressed legislative intent to recognize mental conditions caused solely by work-related stress as occupational disease within the purview of the Workers’ Compensation Act, such mental conditions are not compensable as occupational diseases.” The Court noted the difficulty in proving the existence and the cause of mental injuries and pointed to the State’s interest in making the most efficient use of a finite fund.

Of further interest, the Supreme Court also cast doubt on its decision in Bailey v. Republic Engineered Steels, Inc. (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d. 38. In Bailey, an employee sought workers’ compensation benefits for depression that resulted when the employee accidentally killed his co-worker. The Court allowed the claim because it arose from the compensable injury or occupational disease of a third party. Finding this decision to be “atypical” and an “aberration,” the McCrone Court emphasized, “When the entire definition of ‘injury’ in R.C. 4123.01(C) is examined, it is clear that workers’ compensation covers physical injuries and psychiatric injuries that arise directly out of physical injuries or occupational diseases to the claimant.”

The McCrone decision confirms longstanding principles within Ohio’s workers’ compensation system and clarifies recurring issues concerning the compensability of psychiatric and psychological