The Kentucky Court of Appeals recently released a to-be-published decision in the matter of Ridener v. South KY Rural Electric Cooperative Corp., where it was asked to determine whether an award of benefits under a long-term disability (LTD) policy constituted a judicial admission of permanent total disability by the employer in the workers’ compensation claim.
The court held it did not. The Court easily dispensed with plaintiff’s assertions by explaining (1) that the requirements for disability under the long-term disability policy were not the same as the elements for total disability under KRS 342; (2) that an ALJ is not bound by the findings of a long-term disability carrier; and (3) even if the determination of disability under the LTD plan did constitute an admission, such admissions are to be narrowly construed.
The court observed that under the LTD policy, Ridener only had to establish he could not perform one or more of the essential elements of the job, while to be considered permanently totally disabled under KRS 342, he had to establish “a complete and permanent inability to perform any type of work as a result of an injury.”
It then noted, with reliance on Kington v. Zeigler Coal Co., 639 S.W.2d 560, 562 (Ky. App. 1982), that just as an ALJ is not bound by a finding of disability by the Social Security Administration, he is not bound by a finding of a long-term disability carrier.
Finally, the court noted that even if it accepted Ridener’s argument that the award of long-term disability benefits constituted a judicial admission, such admissions are to be construed narrowly. Thus, the admission implicated by the LTD award simply established that Ridener could not “return to the work he performed for the Electric Cooperative. It does not prove that Ridener is totally disabled under KRS Chapter 342. Therefore, this argument by Ridener, although somewhat novel, is not persuasive.”