Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio

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This suit fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Claims, rather than the court of common pleas, because Plaintiff sought legal relief rather than equitable relief. This suit challenged the legality of fees that were incurred by some recipients of workers’ compensation benefits when accessing their benefits. In this appeal, however, the Supreme Court was required to determine only whether the suit was properly brought in the court of common pleas or whether it should have been brought in the Court of Claims, which has exclusive jurisdiction over many suits against state entities such as the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff’s claim was equitable because it sought full payment of the benefit lawfully awarded to him by the Bureau, and therefore, the Court of Common Pleas had exclusive jurisdiction in the matter. View "Cirino v. Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals granting a writ of mandamus that ordered the administrator of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (Bureau) to vacate the order of the administrator’s designee finding that Daily Services LLC was the successor to I-Force, LLC and was responsible for I-Force’s rights and obligations, holding that Daily Services failed to demonstrate that it was entitled to relief in mandamus. After Daily Services received from the Bureau an invoice for more than $3.48 million for I-Force’s unpaid premiums, it filed a protest. An adjudicating committee determined that Daily Services was the successor to I-Force under former Ohio Adm.Code 4123-17-02(C)(1). The administrator’s designee upheld the decision. The court of appeals, however, concluded that Daily Services did not “wholly succeed” the business operations of I-Force. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Bureau did not abuse its discretion when it determined that Daily Services wholly succeeded the business operations of I-Force even if it did not assume every customer, employee, or lease held by I-Force; and (2) the Bureau’s statutory obligation to safeguard the Workers’ Compensation Fund authorizes it to find that an employer is a “successor in interest” when that employer attempts to evade workers’ compensation liabilities. View "State ex rel. Daily Services, LLC v. Morrison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals granting a writ of mandamus ordering the Industrial Commission to vacate its order allocating the cost of a permanent-total-disability award between two different employers and issue an amended order. Appellee filed an application for permanent-total-disability compensation based on three workers’ compensation claims for work-related injuries she received while working for two different employers. A staff hearing officer granted the application. Appellant, one of Appellee’s employers, filed this mandamus action challenging the Commission’s allocation of the cost of the award among the three claims. The court of appeals ordered the Commission to vacate the portion of the hearing officer’s order allocating the cost of the award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission abused its discretion by failing to explain the basis for the specific allocations of the award among the three claims. View "State ex rel. Penske Truck Leasing Co. v. Industrial Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying the writ of mandamus sought by Appellant seeking to compel the Industrial Commission to vacate its order retroactively adjusting Appellant’s benefit rate. After Appellant was injured in a work-related motor vehicle accident he began receiving workers’ compensation benefits. After the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discovered that Appellant’s benefit rates had been incorrectly calculated, it recalculated Appellant’s full weekly wage and average weekly wage. The Commission affirmed the Bureau’s order and instructed the Bureau to determine how much Appellant had previously been overpaid and to recoup that amount through reduction of his future benefits. The court of appeals concluded that the Commission had not abused its discretion in upholding the Bureau’s adjustment of Appellant’s benefit rate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to demonstrate a clear legal right to the relief requested or a clear legal duty on the part of the Commission to provide it. View "State ex rel. Witt v. Industrial Commission of Ohio" on Justia Law

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The definition of “claimant” for purposes of Ohio Rev. Code 4123.931(G) is any party who is eligible to receive compensation, medical benefits, or death benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Further, a claimant becomes eligible at the time of the injury or death that occurred during the course of employment and remains eligible unless and until a determination that the claimant is not entitled to benefits has been made and has become final or, if no claim is filed, until the time allowed for filing a claim has elapsed. Loretta Verlinger, a benefits applicant, appealed the denial of her application to the Industrial Commission. During the pendency of the appeal, Verlinger settled claims with Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company and Foremost Property and Casualty Insurance Company. The Commission subsequently allowed Verlinger’s claim. The trial court granted summary judgment for Verlinger, concluding that she was not a claimant pursuant to section 4123.931. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) Verlinger was a claimant at the time she settled with the insurance companies; and (2) Metropolitan and Foremost were jointly and severally liable to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, a statutory subrogee, for the full amount of its subrogation interest. View "Bureau of Workers' Compensation v. Verlinger" on Justia Law

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In this case alleging breach of contract, fraud, retaliation, constructive discharge, and invasion of privacy, the Supreme Court held (1) in Ohio, punitive damages may not be awarded for a breach of contract; (2) a party to a contract does not breach the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing by seeking to enforce the agreement as written or by acting in accordance with its express terms, and the implied duty is not breached unless a specific obligation imposed by the contract is not met; (3) a release of liability is an absolute bar to a later action on any claim encompassed within it absent a showing of fraud, duress, or other wrongful conduct in procuring it, and a party must prove duress by clear and convincing evidence; (4) the prevention of performance doctrine is not a defense to a release of liability and therefore cannot be asserted as a defense to a release; and (5) a claimant cannot rely on predictions or projections that relate to future performance or that are made to third parties to establish a fraud claim. View "Lucarell v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 2005, Roark, a Sunesis laborer, was working alone at the bottom of a trench, when the trench collapsed, killing him. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation awarded Roark’s dependent children benefits. The dependents sought an additional award based on violations of specific safety requirements for sloping, shoring, and bracing. A hearing officer concluded that Roark’s death was the result of Sunesis’s failure to properly support the trench and ordered Sunesis to pay an additional award based on violations of Ohio Adm.Code 4123:1-3-13. On remand, a hearing officer issued factual findings based on photographs and testimony: Three sides of the trench were adequately shored. The fourth wall, which caved in on Roark, consisted of soil that Sunesis attempted to shore up by sloping the wall and inserting a steel plate above the slope. The hearing officer found no evidence that Roark disregarded instructions to work inside a large underground pipe. On rehearing, in 2012, a hearing officer identified the soil involved as soft material, Class C soil with groundwater, stating that Code Table 13-1 addresses the approximate angle of repose for sloping: The presence of groundwater requires special treatment. The commission, the Tenth District, and the Supreme Court of Ohio upheld the award. It was within the commission’s discretion to conclude that the trench was not properly shored or braced, exposing employees to the danger of moving ground and that failure to comply with the regulations proximately caused Roark’s death. View "Sunesis Construction Co. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio" on Justia Law

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OP receives bales of recycled paper bound with wire, which are loaded onto a conveyor for transport into a pulper. An overhead saw cuts the wire. Most wires end up in the pulper, but some get wrapped around the conveyor's shafts and gears. For routine maintenance, the conveyor operator, who worked inside a control shack, switched the machine to maintenance mode. Ruckman and Horvath began following the company’s required lock-out/tag-out procedures and shut down the machine. They removed a guard to remove wires from chains and sprockets. After Horvath left the area, Ruckman, trying to remove wires that were stuck, unlocked and activated the conveyor and reached in. His hand was pulled into the machine. Ruckman was unable to reach the emergency-stop button. Ruckman’s workers’ compensation claim was allowed for left-hand amputation and replantation, major depressive disorder, and total loss of use of the hand. He obtained an additional award for violation of a specific safety requirement (VSSR), alleging that OP had violated regulations that require guards and emergency-shut-off buttons on power-driven conveyors. The Supreme Court of Ohio reversed. OP provided an emergency-stop button within reach of the operator and guards around pinch points during normal operations. When the machine was undergoing maintenance, OP required that the conveyor be shut down and locked. Rules intended to protect the employees while the conveyor is operating do not apply during maintenance when there is no power. Ruckman's violation of safety protocol was the proximate cause of his injury; only acts within the employer’s control can be the basis for a VSSR. View "Ohio Paperboard v. Industrial Commission of Ohio" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the judgment of the court of appeals in which the court concluded that the Industrial Commission of Ohio should not have denied the application of Appellee for permanent total disability compensation, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment to the extent that it granted a limited writ of mandamus. The Commission denied Appellee's application, in part, based on Appellee’s refusal to participate in rehabilitative services. The court of appeals issued the limited writ ordering the Commission to address the merits of Appellee’s application without relying on his alleged refusal to accept vocational-rehabilitation services. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and ordered the Commission to consider all the evidence in the record that is related to vocational-rehabilitation services before determining whether Appellee was entitled to permanent total disability compensation. View "State ex rel. Gulley v. Industrial Commission of Ohio" on Justia Law

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In this mandamus case in which Appellant challenged an order of the Industrial Commission granting an additional award for the violation of a specific safety requirement (VSSR), the nip-point rule found in Ohio Admin. Code 4123:1-5-11(D)(10)(a) did not apply. The Commission determined that Appellant had violated the nip-point rule, thereby causing an industrial injury to Duane Ashworth. The court of appeals denied Appellant’s request for a writ. The Supreme Court reversed and issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Commission to issue a new order that denies Ashworth’s application for a VSSR award, holding that the nip-point rule did not apply because an administrative code provision applicable to the rubber and plastics industry expressly covered the machine that Ashworth was operating. For the Commission to require Appellant to comply with the nip-point rule, it must ignore this provision, and the Commission’s failure to apply the provision was not reasonable and thus an abuse of its discretion. View "State ex rel. 31, Inc. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio" on Justia Law