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Ohio Supreme Court Clarifies What Is and What Is Not Appealable to the Court of Common Pleas in Workers’ Compensation Claims

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By Bruce Fahey

September 19, 2017

Confusion on what is and what is not appealable to the Court of Common Pleas has existed for decades.  Determining what is and is not appealable to the Court of Common Pleas in workers’ compensation claims became a little clearer when the Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Clendenin v. Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, et al., Slip Op. No. 2017-OH-2830.

In Clendenin, the injured worker’s claim was allowed for a right shoulder rotator cuff tear, multiple conditions to the right shoulder and acromioclavicular joint along with substantial aggravation of pre-existing dermatomyositis (an inflammatory myopathy most frequently affecting the skin and muscles along with other areas of the body).  The Industrial Commission approved payment of compensation and medical benefits for all of these conditions in the claim.

Five years later, a Bureau of Workers’ Compensation IME found that the dermatomyositis had returned to a level that would have existed absent the workplace injury.  Both the District and Staff Hearing Officers found that the condition returned to the pre-injury status and terminated payment of treatment for the condition.

The Industrial Commission refused Clendenin’s appeal and she filed an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County.  The Court of Common Pleas granted the Bureau’s Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  Clendenin’s attorney then appealed to the First District Court of Appeals which reversed the trial court’s judgment.  The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Ohio Supreme Court decided that Clendenin appealed an “extent of disability” decision which is properly challenged by an action in mandamus.  The Supreme Court analyzed what is and what is not appealable, stating that appeals to the Court of Common Pleas are only permitted where the Industrial Commission determines the right of the injured worker to participate or to continue to participate in the Workers’ Compensation Fund.  In order for this appeal to be one which is appealable to the Court of Common Pleas, the Commission would have to make a finding that the pre-existing condition was not aggravated in the course of employment and that the condition was disallowed, which did not occur here.

Another lesson from Clendenin is that, in cases involving a substantial aggravation of a pre-existing condition, employers should monitor the status of that condition and exercise the right to an examination to determine if the substantially aggravated condition has returned to the pre‑injury status.

Should you wish to obtain a copy of the Clendenin opinion or have any question regarding workers’ compensation, please feel free to contact any member of our Workers’ Compensation Practice Group.

This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel.

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