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Evidence From Criminal Act Can Be Used In Workers’ Comp Case

March 10, 2015

Evidence from a criminal proceeding can be used in a workers’ compensation hearing to determine whether a former employee should continue receiving benefits, the Court of Appeals ruled on Friday.

The case involves former Chrysler employee Monasser OMIAN, who began receiving workers’ comp for an on-the-job back injury in 2000. Years later, Omian was sentenced to 30 months in prison in a federal court for making 50 international deposits for other individuals in an attempt to avoid the Internal Revenue Service.

Chrysler attempted to use information from this criminal case as proof to a workers’ comp magistrate and the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) that Omian is physically able to work and they shouldn’t need to pay him workers’ comp.

Appellate Judge Kurtis WILDER wrote in the majority opinion that some portions of Omian’s criminal indictment are relevant in establishing his credibility, particularly when records showed he opened a Comerica account with a $24,000 deposit sometime after his injury, despite Omian’s claim to the contrary.

Also, if anything in the criminal indictment against Omian proves his ability to earn wages or secure employment, it could be used in determining whether benefits should be given, Wilder wrote.

All three judges involved in the case wrote separately in the case Omian v. Chrysler (No. 310743). Concurring Appellate Judge Cynthia Diane STEPHENS wrote that a person’s ability to engage in illegal activity doesn’t automatically mean he or she is able to perform work.

However, “I cannot say that the physical and mental efforts required in every illegal activity have no bearing on an individuals’ ability to earn legal wages or perform work,” Stephens wrote. “For example, while passively laundering funds would not likely translate into evidence of the ability to engage in legal work, managing those laundered funds by arranging for transfers, keeping records of the transactions, and delivering the funds to third parties could be relevant to the ability to earn legal income.”

In her dissent, Appellate Judge Amy Ronayne KRAUSE wrote that connecting a person’s ability to profit from a crime to his or her wage-earning capability would require more proof than presenting hypothetical or speculative theories.

“I can find absolutely nothing in (Chrysler’s) brief beyond hyperbolic bluster and rather suspiciously pious appeals to emotion to suggest that they could have presented evidence of any such acts,” Krause wrote. “Rather, defendant refers to plaintiff as some kind of criminal mastermind but provides not a scintilla of support for that characterization.

“Omiam is undisputedly a criminal, there was likely little doubt that his honesty is somewhat less than absolute, and he may very well be a ‘bad person,’ but entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits is in no way based on such considerations,” she wrote.

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