Mandamus Appropriate to Challenge Grant of Continuing Jurisdiction
State ex rel. Belle Tire Distribs., Inc. v. Indus. Comm., ___Ohio St.3d____, 2018-Ohio-2122 (6/5/18).
Issue: Is an order by the Commission granting continuing jurisdiction and allowing a claim challengeable by a mandamus action or an R.C. §4123.512 appeal?
Background: Mrs. Melroy filed for death benefits after her husband died while working for the employer. Initially, the BWC denied her claim. Mrs. Melroy appealed and a district hearing officer allowed the claim. The employer appealed and a staff hearing officer denied the claim. Mrs. Melroy appealed that decision and the Industrial Commission refused the appeal.
Mrs. Melroy then requested reconsideration and the Industrial Commission concluded it had continuing jurisdiction to reconsider the staff hearing officer order based on a clear mistake of fact. The Industrial Commission issued an order allowing the claim.
The employer filed a mandamus action challenging the decision to grant continuing jurisdiction and filed an R.C. §4123.512 appeal. The employer asked the trial court to stay the appeal until the mandamus decision.
Mrs. Melroy filed a motion to dismiss the mandamus action, arguing that the employer had an adequate remedy of law with the R.C.§4123.512 appeal. The Court of Appeals granted the motion to dismiss finding that the Commission’s decision to exercise its continuing jurisdiction was appealable to the Court of Common Pleas pursuant to R.C. §4123.512.
Decision: Supreme Court reverses and remands.
The employer argued that R.C. §4123.512 does not provide an adequate remedy to challenge the Commission’s exercise of continuing jurisdiction. The employer argued
it should have the opportunity to challenge the commission’s exercise of continuing jurisdiction because, in the event that the commission abused its discretion in doing so, the previous order denying the claim would remain in effect—placing the responsibility for filing an appeal on the claimant without the benefit of receiving ongoing compensation payments from the employer throughout the process.
Mrs. Melroy argued that R.C. §4123.512 is an adequate remedy because it is complete and will ultimately decide whether the claim for death benefits should be allowed.
The Supreme Court reviews the differences between an R.C. §4123.512 appeal and a mandamus action challenging an Industrial Commission decision. R.C. §4123.512 appeals allow injured workers or employers to appeal a Commission order to the Court of Common Pleas when the order grants or denies the right to participate. State ex rel. Liposchak v. Indus. Comm., 90 Ohio St.3d 276 (2000).
No other orders by the Commission are appealable through R.C. §4123.512 except one that terminates the right to participate.
Mandamus actions are “appropriate when there is a legal basis to compel the commission to perform its clear legal duty to do so under the law, including when the commission has abused its discretion in carrying out its duties.” There must be a lack of an adequate remedy besides a mandamus and the Commission order must be an abuse of discretion.
In this case, the employer’s complaint for a mandamus alleged that the Commission abused its discretion when it granted continuing jurisdiction to review the staff hearing officer order based on a clear mistake of fact. The Supreme Court states that:
This question does not involve the right to participate but instead involves whether there was a factual mistake sufficient to invoke the continuing-jurisdiction provisions of R.C. 4123.52. This question is a proper subject matter for an action seeking a writ of mandamus. State ex rel. Saunders v. Metal Container Corp., 52 Ohio St.3d 85 (1990).
The Supreme Court states that although Mrs. Melroy and the Commission argue that R.C. §4123.512 would be an adequate remedy and more effective than a mandamus action (because it would decide whether the death claim should be allowed), the continuing jurisdiction issue is a separate issue.
Editor’s Comment: The Court of Appeals relied on the Supreme Court decision in State ex rel. Alhamarshah v. Indus. Comm., 142 Ohio St.3d 524 (2015), in its decision to dismiss the mandamus. In that case, an employee sought a writ of mandamus after the Commission decided that the employer’s notice of appeal had substantially complied with the statutory requirements and the claim was denied. The Supreme Court in Alhamarshah found that the employee had an adequate remedy by way of R.C. §4123.512 appeal. Almarshah was then followed by the Supreme Court in State ex rel. Carroll v. Galion Assisted Living, Ltd.,149 Ohio St.3d 326 (2016). In Carroll, the Commission exercised continuing jurisdiction based on an alleged mistake of fact and vacated the employee’s workers’ compensation claim. The Supreme Court found that the employee had an adequate remedy in the form of an R.C. §4123.512 appeal.
The Supreme Court states that:
In those cases, we did not focus on the differences between a mandamus claim and an R.C. 4123.512 appeal and we did not acknowledge our earlier holding in Saunders. Instead, we focused on the ultimate right-to-participate question that was the subject of the R.C. 4123.512 appeals in Alhamarshah and Carroll. To the extent that those decisions failed to give due consideration to the distinct issues in each case that were reviewable in mandamus, we now clarify that Saunders, not Alhamarshah or Carroll, answers whether Belle Tire has an adequate remedy through an R.C. 4123.512 appeal.
The dissenting opinion finds that a mandamus action is not appropriate. The Commission order decided whether Mrs. Melroy could participate in the workers’ compensation system. The dissent says that according the precedent, this should be decided by a R.C. §4123.512 appeal which provides for an adequate remedy.
As the dissent points out:
The majority splits the order into two parts—the decision to exercise continuing jurisdiction and the award of benefits—and determines that the first part is reviewable in mandamus because it is not appealable under R.C. 4123.512. The majority thereby envisions two parallel avenues for Belle Tire to seek reversal of the commission’s order: a mandamus action in the court of appeals challenging the commission’s continuing jurisdiction to make the award and a simultaneous action in the common pleas court challenging the award under R.C. 4123.512.
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the commission’s determination that there was a mistake of fact about what Melroy’s husband was doing when he was killed—a point that goes directly to whether he died in the course of his employment—was inextricably tied to the question of Melroy’s right to participate in the workers’ compensation fund. Thus, the decision was appealable under R.C. 4123.512…