In a decision which is extremely favorable to employers, the Ohio Supreme Court found the “consent provision” in R.C. 4123.512(D) constitutional, which means claimant must obtain an employer’s consent before voluntarily dismissing an employer-initiated appeal under Civ.R. 41(A).
Ferguson v. State of Ohio, 2017-Ohio-7844 began as a declaratory judgment action in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas challenging the constitutionality of the consent provision of R.C. 4123.512(D), which became effective with the enactment of S.B. 7 on August 25, 2006. The consent provision requires the claimant to obtain the employer’s consent to voluntarily dismiss his/her complaint in an employer initiated appeal. The trial court found R.C. 4123.512(D) the statute unconstitutionally violated the separation of powers doctrine by intruding on the Supreme Court’s power to govern trial procedure under the Civil Rules, violated the Equal Protection clauses of the Ohio and Federal Constitutions, and violated the Due Process clauses of the Ohio and Federal Constitutions. The 8th District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in all respects and the State appealed to the Supreme Court.
On September 28, 2017, the Ohio Supreme Court held that workers’ compensation appeals are “special statutory proceedings,” and as such, the civil rules have limited applicability. The court found that Civ.R. 41(A) is clearly inapplicable because the rule’s application would alter the basic statutory purpose for which the consent provision was enacted. Regarding the equal protection and due process clauses of the Ohio and Federal Constitutions, the Court analyzed whether the statute was rationally related to a legitimate government interest. The Court found the consent provision fulfilled the legitimate state interest in limiting improper payment of compensation during the pendency of appeals and in avoiding unnecessary delay in the appeals process.