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Ohio comp bureau can subrogate benefits costs: State high court

Posted On: Apr. 20, 2018 1:22 PM CST

Ohio comp bureau can subrogate benefits costs: State high court

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has the right to subrogate an injured worker and two insurers related to payments they made regarding her work-related injury, according to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Loretta Verlinger sustained serious injuries in an accident on Aug. 1, 2011, and applied for workers compensation benefits on Aug. 17 from the bureau, which disallowed the claim on Sept. 6, according to court documents in Bureau of Workers’ Compensation v. Verlinger, released Thursday.

During her appeal to the Ohio Industrial Commission, Ms. Verlinger settled claims with Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co., the insurer of the driver who caused the crash, and Foremost Property and Casualty Insurance Co., her own insurer, resulting in payments to Ms. Verlinger and her husband. The parties finalized the settlements on Dec. 15, 2011.

On Dec. 23, 2011, the commission allowed Ms. Verlinger’s comp claim, finding that she “sustained an injury in the course of and arising out of her employment,” and she began receiving benefits. 

In July 2013, the bureau filed a complaint seeking compensation under Ohio’s subrogation statute for the amounts it had paid and would pay on Ms. Verlinger’s workers comp benefits claim, according to the court documents. The trial court granted Ms. Verlinger’s motion for summary judgment, finding that because the bureau had rejected Ms. Verlinger’s benefits application at the time she settled with the two insurers, she was not a claimant under the subrogation statute — a decision affirmed on appeal.

But the Ohio Supreme Court vacated the decision and remanded the case after finding that Ms. Verlinger was a claimant under the statute because she was eligible to receive comp benefits at the time she settled her claims with the insurers and failed to provide the bureau and the attorney general with a “reasonable opportunity to assert their subrogation rights.”

The Ohio Supreme Court also found that Ms. Verlinger and the insurers were “jointly and severally liable” for the full amount owed to the bureau.

“We understand Foremost’s argument that it is unfair to hold a third party jointly and severally liable without regard to its knowledge of any subrogation rights,” the court said. “However, this is a policy argument best made to the General Assembly.”

Several attorneys participating in the case could not be reached for comment.