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Supreme Court Determines Decisions Regarding Return to Pre-Injury Level Under R.C. 4123.54 is Mandamus Issue

In Clendendin v. Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, 2017-Ohio-2830, the Ohio Supreme Court addressed whether a decision of the Commission finding the claimant’s injury returned to pre-injury level under R.C. 4123.54 is not appealable pursuant to R.C. 4123.512.  During the administrative proceedings of the claim, the Bureau moved the Commission to “abate [the claimant’s] claim for substantial aggravation of preexisting dermatomyositis.”  The Commission through its district and staff hearing officers granted the motion and ordered that compensation and medical benefits were no longer payable for substantial aggravation of preexisting dermatomyositis.  The claimant appealed to the trial court, which dismissed the appeal upon the Bureau’s motion, which alleged the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.  The claimant appealed and the court of appeals reversed the trial court, finding the Commission’s order terminated the claimant’s right to participate in the workers’ compensation fund for substantial aggravation of preexisting dermatomyositis.  The court of appeals reasoned that the Commission’s order effectively terminated the claimant’s right to continue to participate in the fund.  The Bureau then appealed to the Supreme Court.

In reversing the court of appeals, the court analyzed the case law addressing the distinction between appeals pursuant to R.C. 4123.512 and mandamus actions.  The court reasoned that despite the fact that the Commission’s order provided no compensation or benefits would be payable substantial aggravation of preexisting dermatomyositis, the Commission’s order “continued to refer to [the claimant’s] claim and condition as allowed.”  Because the Commission did not make a finding that the claim was “disallowed” for substantial aggravation of preexisting dermatomyositis, the order was not appealable and was an order about the extent of the claimant’s disability.

The court’s holding means that Commission decisions under R.C. 4123.54 can be challenged only by filing a petition for writ of mandamus.

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