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Ohio law barring employee from dismissing employer's comp claim overturned


An Ohio law prohibiting an injured worker from voluntarily dismissing his complaint in a workers compensation appeal initiated by his employer without his employer's consent is unconstitutional, an Ohio appellate court has ruled in a case of first impression.

Shannon Ferguson injured his left shoulder on Jan. 29, 2009, working for Ford Motor Co., court records show.

The Ohio Industrial Commission accepted his workers comp claim for a left shoulder strain/sprain and a left rotator cuff tear, according to records.

In May 2012, Ford appealed to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Cleveland, records show.

Mr. Ferguson then filed his complaint for benefits in compliance with the procedure that requires him to “start anew in the common pleas court,” according to records.

However, he moved to voluntarily dismiss his complaint without prejudice in January 2013, as his expert witness was unavailable, records show. He also moved to amend his complaint to add a declaratory judgment action, arguing that a 2006 amendment to Ohio Revised Code is unconstitutional because it requires injured workers to obtain their employer's consent before dismissing complaints.

He argued that the amendment was unconstitutional because it “intrudes into the Ohio Supreme Court's power to govern courtroom procedure” and violates the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the Ohio Constitution, according to records.

In December 2014, the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court declared the revised code unconstitutional, leading the state to appeal.

Ohio's 8th District Court of Appeals on Thursday affirmed the judgment of the common pleas court, ruling that the amendment “restricts the right of an injured employee in an employer-initiated workers compensation appeal to voluntarily dismiss his complaint without obtaining the consent of the employer.”

The appellate court's ruling states that the amendment “is unconstitutional because it violates the basic principles of separation of powers, equal protection, and due process.”

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