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Ohio Supreme Court expedites workers' compensation appeals

The Supreme Court of Ohio recently ruled that a 2006 state law designed to delay appeals in Workers' compensation cases is constitutional. The underlying case came before the Eighth District Court of Appeals after the Ohio Industrial Commission (OIC) awarded a Ford Motor Company employee Workers' compensation benefits for workplace injuries he suffered in 2009. The employee then complied with a law that essentially required him to file a complaint alleging that he could participate in the Workers' compensation fund.

During the process of the appeal, the employee continued to receive benefits from the OIC. During Workers' compensation cases appealed by employers, injured Workers continue to receive benefits throughout the appeal process and are entitled to obtain up to $4,200 in attorney fees if they win the appeal. Typically, court rules would allow him to request that the case be dismissed without prejudice, allowing it to be refiled later. However, a 2006 law, R.C. 4123.512(D), requires Workers' compensation claimants to obtain consent from their employers in order to postpone the case.

The employee filed a separate lawsuit, alleging that R.C. 4123.512(D) is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers doctrine, the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Ohio Constitution. The trial court and the Eight District agreed with the employee and Ford appealed the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

However, the Ohio Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the law is constitutional. The court's opinion stated that the law was intended to prevent claimants from prolonging the appeals process in order to continue to receive Workers' compensation benefits. The court reasoned that the process of appeals should be expedient and this type of unjustified delay wastes judicial resources. Therefore, injured workers must still comply with R.C. 4123.512(D) by obtaining consent from their employer to delay Workers' compensation cases appealed by employers.

Source: Court News Ohio, "Law Aimed at Reducing Workers' Compensation Appeal Time Constitutional," Dan Trevas, Sept. 28, 2017

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