Michigan Supreme Court Remands to Appellate Commission Directing Assessment of Post-Injury Retirement and Effect on Wage Loss

In a case I brought to the Michigan Supreme Court on application from a Court of Appeals denial and Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission decision, the Court agrees with my argument the Commission did not address whether the claimant’s wage loss was attributable to her work-related injury, or rather due to her acceptance of a retirement / severance package.

MCL 418.301(4) of the Workers Disability Compensation Act requires in order for an individual to be entitled to wage loss benefits, the disability occasioned by the work-related injury must be the true cause of the wage loss, not some other reason wholly (or even partially) unrelated to the work.

This stems from the underlying principles behind workers compensation “wage loss” benefits.  Employers are only responsible to the extent the employee is unable to earn wages due to the injury and not for other reasons beyond the employer’s control.  Thus, downturns in the economy, a worker’s choice to do something else for less pay, or to move to a geographical location with less opportunities, seasonal employment situations, etc., all are situations over which employers do not have control.  Therefore, employers are not responsible for the wage loss benefits for such circumstances.

This remand by the Michigan Supreme Court confirms that in those cases where the facts support the legal argument, it must be considered whether the employer is truly responsible for all, or even a portion of the claimed “wage loss”.

Read the Supreme Court’s order here:  Williamson v. GM

If anyone has questions regarding this decision, or the wage loss principle in general, please contact Carson J. Tucker, JD, MSEL at (734) 218-3605.

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