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5-Year Limit in Ohio doesn’t Apply Once Claim Goes to Court

02 May, 2024 Frank Ferreri

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Columbus, OH (WorkersCompensation.com) -- When a workers' compensation statute includes a time restriction on when a claim can be filed, does that restriction apply when the case is through on the administrative side and heads to court?

Ohio's top court in Caldwell v. Whirlpool Corporation, No. 2024-Ohio-1625 (Ohio 05/01/24) ruled that it does not, finding that a five-year limitation period was jurisdictional to the state's Industrial Committee, not its judicial branch.

A worker suffered a work-related injury while he was employed with Whirlpool. After a successful initial workers' compensation claim, the worker sought coverage for additional conditions a few years later. Eventually, the case wound up in court and then in appellate court, with the outcome being Whirlpool's favor. Ultimately, the appellate court ruled that the worker's claim had expired as a matter of law because an Ohio statute limited the Industrial Commission's continuing jurisdiction to five years from the date of the last payment on the worker's initial claim and that five years had passed.

The worker appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Under Ohio law, in cases in which a claimant has received compensation from an initial successful claim and seeks additional compensation, any "modification, change, finding, or award shall be made within five years from the date of the last payment of compensation." Caselaw has established that when a workers' compensation claimant files a notice of appeal in a court of common pleas, jurisdiction over the claim vests in that court, and a timely notice of appeal satisfies the jurisdictional requirements under the five-year rule.

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In reversing the previous decisions going against the worker, the Ohio Supreme Court held that, based on the plain language of the relevant workers' compensation statutes, when a workers' compensation claimant perfects an appeal, the subsequent expiration of the commission's five-year period of continuing jurisdiction does not cause a claim that is pending in court to expire as a matter of law.

The court noted that the statute in question was concerned solely with the commission's continuing jurisdiction over workers' compensation cases, but not court cases.

Because the worker's case was filed in court, the five-year limit did not cause his claim to expire.

"[The worker] did all that was required of him ... to have his day in court," the court wrote. "The statute that establishes the continuing jurisdiction of the commission in no way affects ... court proceedings once they have been properly initiated."

Thus, the Ohio Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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