Supreme Court Holds Mandamus is Appropriate When Commission’s Continuing Jurisdiction is Challenged

When the Commission issues a decision on the allowance of a claim or an additional condition, such a decision is appealable to a common pleas court under R.C. 4123.512.  However, if the Commission allows the claim after reconsideration of a staff hearing officer’s order disallowing the claim, can the Commission’s decision on reconsideration be challenged as an abuse of discretion in mandamus?  On June 25, 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court answered this question, holding that a decision regarding reconsideration involves the Commission’s exercise of its continuing jurisdiction, and although the ultimate decision of the Commission on the right to participate is appealable under R.C. 4123.512, the decision to exercise continuing jurisdiction is reviewable in mandamus under an abuse of discretion standard.

In State ex rel. Belle Tire Distributors., Inc. v. Indus. Comm., 2018-Ohio-2122, a staff hearing officer disallowed a claim for death benefits.  The widow-claimant filed a motion for reconsideration requesting the Commission reconsider and exercise its continuing jurisdiction under 4123.52 based on a clear mistake of fact as to the activity decedent was engaged in at the time of death. The Commission granted claimant’s motion.  Upon reconsideration, the Commission reversed the SHO’s order and allowed the death claim.

Belle Tire filed a petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the Commission’s exercise of continuing jurisdiction and an appeal pursuant to R.C. 4123.512 from the Commission’s order allowing the claim. The trial court held the R.C. 4123.512 appeal in abeyance pending a final decision in the mandamus action.  The 10th District Court of Appeals dismissed the mandamus action on the ground that Belle Tire had an adequate remedy at law to challenge the Commission’s ultimate decision and that remedy was an appeal pursuant to R.C. 4123.512.  Belle Tire appealed the court of appeals’ decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, which reversed the court of appeals.

The Supreme Court reasoned that Belle Tire’s mandamus action challenged the Commission’s discretion to grant reconsideration and exercise its continuing jurisdiction.  The court wrote: “This question does not involve the right to participate but instead involves whether there was a factual mistake sufficient to invoke the continuing-jurisdiction provisions of R.C. 4123.52. This question is a proper subject matter for an action seeking a writ of mandamus.”

This is an important case for workers’ compensation practitioners, who may be considering how to challenge a final decision of the Commission.  If the Commission’s order involves a decision to accept or deny continuing jurisdiction, the remedy may be a mandamus action, even if the ultimate decision of the Commission allows or disallows the claim.


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