Statute Denying Unilateral Dismissal in Employer Appeal Violates Constitution

Statute Denying Unilateral Dismissal in Employer Appeal
Violates Constitution

Posted: November, 2015

Ferguson v. State, 8th Dist. No. 102553, 2015-Ohio-4499 (10/29/15).

Issue: Can the legislature limit the right of injured workers to dismiss their complaint in an employer’s  R.C. §4123.512 appeal?

Background: Ferguson filed a declaratory judgment action challenging the constitutionality of R.C. §4123.512(D), which prohibits injured workers from voluntarily dismissing their complaint without prejudice when an employer appeals an administrative allowance to court, unless the employer consents.

The trial court found R.C. §4123.512(D) violated Due Process, Equal Protection and the Separation of Powers. The State appealed.

Decision: Court of Appeals affirms.

The Court of Appeals first finds that R.C. §4123.512(D) violates the separation of powers. Ohio Constitution, Article IV, Section 5(B) gives the Supreme Court the authority to “prescribe rules governing practice and procedure in all courts of the state.”

Pursuant to this provision, the Supreme Court adopted the Rules of Civil Procedure. Civil Rule 41(A)(1)(a) permits any plaintiff to unilaterally dismiss their complaint without prejudice, which conflicts with R.C. §4123.512(D). As a result, the Court of Appeals finds that

the requirement in amended R.C. 4123.512(D), that the plaintiff obtain an employer’s consent prior to filing a motion to dismiss an appeal, violates the Ohio Constitution, Article IV, Section 5(B) because it is in contravention of Civ.R. 41(A)(1)(a).

The Court of Appeals also finds that R.C. §4123.512(D) violates Equal Protection. The agreement of the defendant is not required for plaintiffs to voluntarily dismiss their complaint without prejudice, except for workers’ compensation plaintiffs in employer appeals. The Court finds that no justification for this distinction exists and states

We hold as a matter of law that this method of stripping injured workers of the privilege. . . to voluntarily dismiss their complaint under Civ.R. 41(A)(1) has no rational relationship to amended R.C. 4123.512(D) and is offensive to the equal protection clause.

For similar reasons, the Court finds that R.C. §4123.512(D) violates Due Process.

Editor’s Comment: Expect this issue to be resolved by the Ohio Supreme Court.

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