On December 8, 2022, Geoffrey S. Wagner argued before the Michigan Supreme Court in Cramer v Transitional Health Service of Wayne (MSC No. 163559).
In Cramer, the plaintiff was electrocuted at work, causing her to fall off a ladder. She sought workers’ compensation benefits for mental disability and a shoulder injury. The workers’ compensation magistrate concluded that there was insufficient evidence of a work-related mental disability. The magistrate applied the four-factor test set forth in Martin v City of Pontiac Sch Dist, 2001 ACO 118, lv den 466 Mich 873 (2002), to determine whether occupational factors contributed to the plaintiff’s alleged mental disability in a significant manner. In making that determination, the magistrate considered nonoccupational contributors, including physical, mental, and sexual abuse the plaintiff suffered in her first marriage, and the loss of relationships with her mother, her children, and her friends after her divorce. Although the magistrate found that the plaintiff was physically disabled because of the injury to her right shoulder, she denied the plaintiff full wage loss benefits on the basis that there was no evidence that the plaintiff made a good faith effort to find employment. The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) issued a decision that clarified the magistrate’s order in part, reversed the part of the order denying the plaintiff wage loss benefits for the shoulder injury, and affirmed the remainder of the order, including the magistrate’s finding that the plaintiff was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for mental disability. The Court of Appeals denied the plaintiff’s application for leave to appeal with respect to her mental disability claim, but the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration as on leave granted. On remand, the Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 published opinion, affirmed the MCAC and formally recognized the Martin test as a useful guide for magistrates to use. The Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal to address: (1) whether the four-factor Martin test (a) is at odds with the principle that a preexisting condition is not a bar to eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits, and (b) conflicts with the plain meaning of MCL 418.301(2); and (2) assuming that Martin provides the appropriate test, whether the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the MCAC’s conclusion that the magistrate properly applied Martin, as well as the standard in Yost v Detroit Board of Education, 2000 Mich ACO 347, lv den 465 Mich 907 (2001).