Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Workers Cannot Voluntarily Dismiss Employers’ Court Appeals

On September 28, 2017 the Ohio Supreme Court released its decision in Ferguson v. State, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-7844.  The Court rejected a lower court decision which held that the “consent provision” of R.C. § 4123.512(D), which requires employers to consent to workers’ voluntary dismissal of employer court appeals, was unconstitutional.

Under Ohio law, both the employer and the injured worker have the right to appeal a decision of the Industrial Commission allowing or disallowing conditions in a workers’ compensation claim to Common Pleas Court. If the employer brings the appeal, the worker is responsible for filing a complaint.  Under the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, the party that filed the complaint has the right to voluntarily dismiss the case at any point before trial and re-file within one year.  As a result, when a workers’ compensation claim was allowed and appealed by the employer, the worker could wait until the matter was just about to go to trial, dismiss the case and re-file one year later.  This could delay the employer’s access to a decision on the merits for over three years.  In 2006 the Ohio legislature passed the “consent provision” to address this issue.

The Supreme Court’s decision represents a big win for Ohio employers, who can move forward with their court appeals without unreasonable delays and avoid paying benefits and compensation for several years without hope of ever getting to trial.

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