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NEWS

Work Injury Statistics

Approximately 2.9 million non-fatal work injuries and illnesses were reported in 2015 which occurred at a rate of 3.0 injuries per 100 workers.    Over half of the 2.9 million injuries reported in 2015 involved days away from work, job transfer, or restrictions.  

In Ohio in 2016, nearly 90,000 claims were recognized by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.  Of those 90,000 claims, 183 injuries resulted in death and over 10,000 claims resulted in more than one week of work being missed.

Missed work and restricted hours can lead to lost income and financial hardship for the worker  and his or her family.  This is in addition to the physical pain and limitation due to the work place injury.  The workers' compensation system is designed to provide insurance to the injured worker to protect them in case of an injury.  However, as anyone who has ever suffered a work injury can attest to, the system is full of pitfalls which can prevent someone from getting the treatment he or she needs. 

Ohio Defends Workers' Compensation Procedure

Shannon Ferguson, a worker injured in Ohio while working for Ford Motor Co., has claimed that Ohio Revised Code 4123.512(D) violates the Equal Protection Clause.  Ohio Revised Code 4123.512(D), treats Ohio injured workers who become plaintiffs in a court action arising from a workers' compensation claim differently than all other plaintiffs in the Ohio court system.

In non workers' compensation cases, the plaintiff is always the person who starts the lawsuit against the defendant.   However, in workers' compensation claims, the employer has the ability to file a notice of appeal if they disagree with a decision made by the Ohio Industrial Commission.  Once this is filed, the injured worker is required by law to file a lawsuit against the employer.  A law passed in 2006, R.C. 4123.512(D), forbids an injured worker from filing a 41(a) dismissal of an employer's appeal.   In all other civil lawsuits, the plaintiff has the ability to file a one time dismissal without getting approval of the opposing party.  The only requirement is that the plaintiff re-file the case within 1 year of the date of the dismissal.  This is a strategy that is used by the majority of plaintiffs to allow more time to: prepare for trial;  make sure the true extent of the damages are known; and (3)  gather the money for what can be a costly trial.

The Eighth District Court of Appeals in Cuyahoga County agreed with Ms. Ferguson.  The Court concluded that the statute violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Ohio Constitution by treating plaintiffs who are injured workers differently that all other plaintiffs.   The Court stated:

"The injured worker has the status of a plaintiff like any other plaintiff in a civil case. However, plaintiffs in civil cases, except a successful claimant-injured employee in a workers’ compensation case, have the privilege to utilize a voluntary dismissal, without the consent of the defendant under Civ.R. 41(A)(1)(a). {¶28} We fail to see how the state has a valid governmental interest in this statutory classification."

By invalidating the amendment to 4123.512, the court is granting Ohio injured workers' the same rights as other Ohio plaintiffs.   This is a victory for Ohio injured workers in that they can no longer be forced to trial by the employer if they do not feel that are ready, or if there are other reasons why postponing the trial may be beneficial. 

Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments on the State of Ohio's appeal of the Eighth District's decision.  The State of Ohio is arguing against injured workers  being able to voluntarily dismiss stating that employers must give consent for employees to be able to dismiss because it will allow the employee to prolong their workers' compensation benefits.  To date, no decision has been made by the Supreme Court on the validity or constitutionality of the amendment. 

 

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