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10th District Court of Appeals Finds Commission Properly Denied Accrued TTD Compensation to Widow-Claimant

In State ex rel. Sanders v. Indus. Comm., 2016-Ohio-7704 Thomas Sanders (“decedent”) had an allowed claim for which he received compensation and benefits.  Upon a finding that the original allowances in the claim had reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”), decedent moved the Commission to allow his claim for additional conditions.  Decedent prevailed administratively, and after the allowance of the additional conditions, moved the Commission for TTD compensation based on the additional conditions.  The employer appealed the allowance of the additional conditions to court.

While the appeal was pending, decedent died for reasons unrelated to his claim.  Upon decedent’s death, decedent’s counsel withdrew decedent’s TTD request before it was adjudicated by the Commission. Several months thereafter, decedent’s widow filed a motion with the Commission pursuant to R.C. 4123.60 for the accrued TTD compensation to which decedent allegedly would have been entitled.  19 days thereafter, the trial court entered judgment finding decedent not entitled to participate in the workers’ compensation law for the additional conditions.

A district hearing officer heard and denied the widow-claimant’s motion, finding that the trial court’s judicial determination disallowing the claim for the additional conditions precluded the payment of compensation.  A staff hearing officer agreed, relying on the trial court’s determination in reasoning: “to order this compensation paid on today’s date would be to ignore the fact that compensation is being ordered paid for conditions which are no longer conditions in this claim.”  The Commission refused further appeal by the widow-claimant.

The widow-claimant filed a complaint in mandamus in the 10th District Court of Appeals seeking reversal of the Commission’s determination.  The 10th District’s magistrate found the Commission abused its discretion reasoning that a liberal construction of the workers’ compensation statute dictated compensation be paid.  Essentially the magistrate reasoned it was unfair to deny compensation the decedent would have been entitled to had he moved for TTD compensation at an earlier date.

The Commission and the employer objected to the magistrate’s decision.  On further review, the court of appeals sustained the objection and rejected the magistrate’s recommendation to issue the writ, thereby upholding the Commission’s order.  The court of appeals acknowledged this case was unique in Ohio, however, there was some evidence supporting the Commission’s order, that being the trial court’s judgment entry disallowing the additional conditions.  The court found the magistrate’s reliance on the liberal construction provision of the law was misplaced because construing the statute was unnecessary to determine the widow-claimant’s right to compensation.

Because this case is one of first impression, there is a good likelihood the widow-claimant will appeal the court of appeals’ decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.  If an appeal is filed, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear the case because the Court has original jurisdiction over mandamus matters.

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