Dispute over Interpretation of Evidence is not Basis for Reconsideration

Dispute over Interpretation of Evidence is not Basis for Reconsideration

Posted: May, 2005

State, ex rel. Holdren v. Indus. Comm. (4/27/05), 105 Ohio St.3d 291, 2005-Ohio-1734.

Issue: Did the Industrial Commission have basis for granting reconsideration? Should the Court remand the case for further proceedings before the Industrial Commission or should the Court reinstate the previous order?

Background: Holdren was receiving permanent total. The BWC investigated and found evidence that he was working. Therefore, the BWC filed a motion requesting that the Commission:

  1. terminate permanent total;
  2. find that Holdren had committed fraud; and
  3. declare an overpayment for all permanent total paid after December 12, 1997.

A Staff Hearing Officer held a hearing and terminated permanent total as of July 12, 2000, finding no evidence that Holdren had engaged in activities inconsistent with permanent total before then. The SHO found no evidence of fraud.

The BWC moved for reconsideration. The Commission issued an interlocutory order which indicated that it would consider whether grounds for reconsideration (based on a mistake of fact and or a mistake of law) at the hearing existed. The Commission’s order also indicated that after the hearing on continuing jurisdiction it would hold a hearing on the merits for “convenience.”

The Commission held the hearing and found that it did have continuing jurisdiction. It found that the Staff Hearing Officer had made a “mistake of law” by failing to explain the reasoning for rejecting evidence. The Commission then found, on the merits, that Holdren had committed fraud and declared an overpayment as of December 12, 1997.

Holdren filed a mandamus case in the Court of Appeals to challenge the Commission’s reconsideration decision.

The Court of Appeals found the Commission’s interlocutory order, which indicated that there might be a basis for the exercise of continuing jurisdiction, defective. The Court of Appeals returned the case to the Commission for it to issue a new order. Holdren appealed.

Decision: Supreme Court reverses and grants a full writ vacating the Commission’s order and reinstating the SHO’s order.

The Court finds that the Commission’s power to grant reconsideration is limited. A dispute over the interpretation of the evidence is not a basis for reconsideration.

In the present case, the BWC based its motion for reconsideration on a disagreement with the Staff Hearing Officer’s interpretation of the evidence. The Court finds that the Commission should not be permitted to reconsider the matter. The Court states “[q]uestions of fairness cannot help but arise when the commission is afforded multiple opportunities to justify a result.”

Information courtesy of the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin. Subscribe to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin to keep informed about the Ohio workers’ compensation system.