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Ohio high court lets 'new' arena football team shed past comp experience


Workers compensation rates for an arena football team’s new owner should not be based on the “entire” experience rating of the team under its former owner, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.

Jim Ferraro’s Cleveland AFL L.L.C. owned an arena football team called the Gladiators, which was part of the Arena Football League until it suspended operations in 2009, court records show. Arena Football One later purchased the assets of the league and formed a new one, according to records.

Mr. Ferraro created Cleveland Professional Football L.L.C. to be affiliated with the new league, records show. He said his new company is different from his old one, as it doesn’t employ Gladiators players and coaches, according to records. Instead, they are now employed by the league.

However, when Mr. Ferraro’s new company applied for workers comp coverage, he was notified by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation that the company “was responsible for the financial rights and obligations of the old owner” and that “it would base the new owners’ premium rate on the experience of the former owner,” records show.

According to records, Cleveland Professional protested the bureau’s decision to transfer the experience rating of the Gladiators under the former owner, stating that it’s not a successor to the former owner for workers comp purposes.

A magistrate determined that the new owner was a successor to the former employer, but that the bureau “abused its discretion when it transferred the entire experience of the former owner,” records show.

It was recommended that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation issue a new order clearly stating what portion of the former owner’s experience should be charged to the new owner, according to records.

Ohio’s 10th District Court of Appeals affirmed the magistrate’s judgment, as did the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, records show.

“We agree that the bureau’s failure to address the evidence that the former owner employed the players and the new owner did not, or adequately explain its decision to transfer the entire experience rating to the new owner, was an abuse of discretion,” the ruling states.

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