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An Ohio appellate court on Tuesday ruled that a worker was not entitled to an enhanced award of benefits for his injuries from being struck by a car, because the accident did not occur in a “workshop.”
In 2018, Luis Ybarra was working for vehicle transport company Cassens Corp. at the outdoor lot of the Chrysler Group Yard in Toledo, Ohio, moving cars from the lot to a staging area where they would be loaded onto auto carrier trucks or trains. The parking lot is enclosed by a fence with guarded gates for entry and exit and is not open to the general public, according to State ex rel. Cassens Corp. v. Industrial Commission, filed in Court of Appeals for the 10th District of Ohio, in Columbus.
After parking a new car in the staging area, Mr. Ybarra was walking in the yard to get another car when he was struck from behind by another car being driven by a co-worker. The car had snow covering its window, and the co-worker was navigating by sticking his head out of the window. The co-worker did not see Ybarra and violated a work rule requiring drivers to clear snow off the windshields. He was later terminated for his misconduct.
Mr. Ybarra received workers compensation benefits and later filed an application for an enhanced award, asserting Cassens had violated a specific safety requirement in Ohio law that applies to “workshops” and “factories.” It requires that all cab glass for motor vehicles be safety glass or equivalent, with the vision unimpaired by its condition.
A staff hearing officer granted Mr. Ybarra the enhanced award, and after the Industrial Commission declined further administrative appeal, Cassens sought mandamus relief. A judge with the Court of Appeals for the 10th District of Ohio recommended that writ be denied.
The Court of Appeals adopted the judge’s findings of fact but rejected his analysis, ruling Ohio case law has defined “workshop” as used in the administrative code as “a room or place wherein power-driven machinery is employed and manual labor is exercised by way of trade for gain or otherwise.” There is also case law establishing that an outdoor area can be a workshop if it is enclosed by perimeter fencing.
“Here, the portion of the Chrysler Group Yard facility in Toledo where Cassens employees engaged in their work duties is an outdoor, open-air storage lot where newly manufactured vehicles are stored as they await transport to dealers and other sellers,” the court said. The commission relied on the fence around the lot to find it was a workshop, but the court said the presence of a perimeter fence does not automatically compel the conclusion that the lot is a workshop.
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