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Comp Connection Vol. 13, No. 3

GOV. KASICH REBATES $1 BILLION TO STATE FUND EMPLOYERS

On May 3, 2013, Governor John Kasich proposed a one-time $1 billion rebate of workers’ compensation premiums, which will benefit approximately 210,000 state fund employers. According to the Governor and Bureau Administrator, Stephen Buehrer, the Bureau’s investment portfolio yielded 11.4 percent in returns over the last three years and the State will reward private and public state fund employers with a refund on their premiums.

Rebates will range from $5 to several million dollars and should be distributed by mail this summer. Governor Kasich jokingly declared he may deliver some of the checks personally.

Private employers also will realize a 2% reduction in their workers’ compensation premiums next year. In addition, The Bureau plans to triple its safety incentives from $5 million to $15 million per year.

Apparently, the rebate and permanent rate reduction will not need the support of Ohio lawmakers. However, because the Governor is also proposing collection of premiums at the beginning of a six-month coverage period, instead of the end, the General Assembly will be required to approve this change.

Administrator Buehrer has given his assurance the Bureau has sufficient funds to pay the $860 million judgment in the San Allen group rating case. (See next article). There is no indication whether or how the rebate will affect self-insured employers.

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CUYAHOGA COUNTY JUDGE AWARDS STATE FUND EMPLOYERS $860 MILLION

On March 20, 2013, Judge Richard McMonagle of the Common Pleas Court of Cuyahoga County awarded state fund employers $860 million in San Allen, Inc. v. Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. After various preliminary matters in the trial court and an appeal affirming the class certification, Judge McMonagle heard the merits in September, 2012.

In December, 2012, Judge McMonagle ruled the Bureau unlawfully collected premiums from state fund employers, but reserved judgment on the amount of the Bureau’s liability until further hearing, which occurred in March, 2013. Judge McMonagle adopted the calculation of the plaintiffs’ expert in arriving at the final restitution figure.

It appears almost certain the Bureau will appeal the trial court’s decision and that the case will eventually be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. As such, a final determination of the controversy may take several years.

SUPREME COURT FINDS TRUCKER DISCHARGED FOR FAILURE TO REMAIN ELIGIBLE FOR LIABILITY INSURANCE DID NOT VOLUNTARILY ABANDON JOB

In State ex rel. Haddox v. Indus. Comm., 2013-Ohio-794, a trucker was injured in a vehicular accident.  Because it was the trucker’s third accident in the calendar year, the employer’s liability insurance no longer covered him.  As a result, the trucker was terminated.  The Commission denied temporary total disability compensation, finding the trucker voluntarily abandoned his employment.

The Supreme Court vacated the Commission’s order. Because the trucker was discharged for the same misconduct that caused his industrial injury, the Court held he was entitled to compensation. The case reaffirms prior decisions restricting the voluntary abandonment doctrine.

 

If you have any questions concerning any of the topics in this issue of Comp Connection, please contact a member of our Workers’ Compensation practice group at (419) 244-6788.

COMP CONNECTION is not intended to provide legal advice, but is intended as a service to the clients of Bugbee & Conkle, LLP and to alert them to recent developments affecting the employment relationship, with a particular emphasis on the perspective of the employer.

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