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Workers comp insurer can collect from third party: Ohio high court


COLUMBUS, Ohio—A six-year statute of limitation applies in a case involving the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation's attempt to subrogate against a third party, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

In Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation vs. Jeffrey McKinley, Mr. McKinley suffered a severe injury in 2003 while working for his employer at a site owned by Heritage-WTI Inc. Court records did not disclose the nature of the injury.

The claimant applied for and received workers comp benefits; later, he sued his employer and Heritage, a third party. The suit against the employer was dismissed, and Mr. McKinley reached a settlement with Heritage.

In 2008 the BWC, which is Ohio’s monopoly workers comp insurer, sued Mr. McKinley and Heritage for failure to honor a subrogation lien against the settlement reached by the two parties. BWC asserted it had paid more than $460,000 in medical bills and compensation for Mr. McKinley and said it expected to pay more.

Heritage then asked a trial court to dismiss the lawsuit. It argued that BWC's subrogation claim was derivative of Mr. McKinley's right to recover against Heritage, and that a two-year statute of limitations that applied to his personal-injury claim against Heritage also applied to the BWC’s claim.

BWC argued that Ohio law creates an independent right of recovery in workers compensation subrogation cases and that a six-year statute of limitation applies, but a trial court agreed with Heritage and dismissed the case.

A state appellate court, however, agreed with the BWC and overturned the trial court’s finding.

On Wednesday, Ohio’s Supreme Court upheld the appellate court finding.

The state Supreme Court cited an earlier ruling that workers comp subrogation is different than “typical insurance subrogation,” holding that under Ohio law a six-year statute of limitation applies in workers comp subrogation cases.