Articles Posted in Labor & Employment 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

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of mandamus sought by Kurt Singer to, among other things, compel Fairland Local School District Board of Education (Fairland) to recognize him as a “regular nonteaching school employee” under Ohio Rev. Code 3319.081 with continuing-contract status. Singer worked for Fairland as a substitute custodian without signing a written employment contract with Fairland. Singer alleged that Fairland wrongly designated him as a “substitute,” and consequently, he had been paid less than a full-time custodian, lost health benefits and some pension benefits, and had been deprived of certain paid leave. Singer requested a writ of mandamus directing Fairland to recognize him as a regular nonteaching employe with a continuing contract and ordering Fairland to make him whole by awarding him back wages and benefits and crediting him with paid leave and other accrued rights. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that Singer was not entitled to continuing status because he failed to establish that he was a “regular nonteaching employee” under section 3319.081. View "State ex rel. Singer v. Fairland Local School District Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Under Ohio law, an employer may appeal a determination by the Industrial Commission that an employee has the right to participate in the workers’ compensation fund, and although the employer files the appeal in the common pleas court, the employee is the plaintiff. At issue was whether a provision enacted in 2006 allowing an employee to dismiss an employer-initiated appeal only with the consent of the employer is constitutional. The court of appeals in this case affirmed the trial court’s judgment declaring the so-called “consent provision” of Ohio Rev. Code 4123.512(D) unconstitutional. The trial court concluded that the consent provision was unconstitutional on the grounds of due process and equal protection and violates the doctrine of separation of powers. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the consent provision of section 4123.512(D) does not improperly conflict with the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, nor does it violate the equal-protection or due-process guarantees of the federal and state Constitutions. View "Ferguson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Industrial Commission to vacate its award to Employee of permanent-partial-disability compensation under Ohio Rev. Code 4123.57(A) and to issue an order denying the award, holding that, pursuant to State ex rel. Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, Inc. v. Industrial Commission (“Ohio Presbyterian I”), 79 N.E.3d 522 (Ohio 2016), when an injured employee is receiving permanent-total-disability compensation pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 4123.58, the Commission is without statutory authority to grant in the same claim permanent-partial-disability compensation under section 4123.57(A). Employee in this case moved the court to reconsider its holding in Ohio Presbyterian I. The Supreme Court granted the motion, reopened the case for further consideration, and concluded that its holding in Ohio Presbyterian I was not made in error. Because the Commission granted Employee permanent-total-disability compensation and then permanent-partial-disability compensation in the same claim, the Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Commission to vacate its award of permanent-partial-disability compensation to Employee under section 4123.57(A) and to issue an order denying the award. View "State ex rel. Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Servs., Inc. v. Industrial Commission" on Justia Law