State ex rel. Lovell v. Indus. Comm.

Decision Date10 January 1996
Docket NumberNo. 94-864,94-864
Citation74 Ohio St.3d 250,658 N.E.2d 284
PartiesThe STATE ex rel. LOVELL, Appellant, v. INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION of Ohio, Appellee.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Appellant-claimant, Charles R. Lovell, was injured in the course of and arising from his employment with Acme Furniture. The injury occurred when his hand was drawn into his employer's circular power saw. In a deposition, claimant described the accident:

"I was guiding the wood through the saw, and you had to cut around the diagrams, and it must have hit a knot or something and jerked my hand right into the saw."

The saw was a Sears Craftsman saw. The saw came equipped with a blade guard, spreader and anti-kickback pawls. The parties agree that on the date of injury, the blade guard was in place, but the anti-kickback pawls were missing.

After claimant's workers' compensation claim was allowed, he filed for additional compensation, alleging that his employer violated several specific safety requirements ("VSSRs"). Appellee, Industrial Commission of Ohio, conducted a full hearing attended by counsel for both claimant and the employer. Claimant was not present. The commission denied the application, writing:

"[C]laimant has cited no specific safety requirement which was violated when the claimant sustained the injury of record.

"The finding and order are based upon the report of Polly S. Petry, Special Investigator for the Industrial Commission, evidence in file and the evidence adduced at hearing.

"Specifically, it is found that the table saw in question was purchased in approximately 1982. No violation of the sections cited under [Ohio Adm.Code] 4121:1-5-07 or 4121:1-5-09 is found, as these sections do not apply to the type of saw at issue. As to [Ohio Adm.Code] 4121:1-5-08, only [Ohio Adm.Code] 4121:1-5-08(D)(1) (a through d) possibly apply. It is found that the table saw in question was equipped with an adequate hood-type guard, and it has not been established that any alleged violations of (b), (c) or (d) were causally related to the injury in this claim. It is further found that claimant did not submit an affidavit to support his position, nor did he appear at this hearing."

Rehearing was also denied:

"The Claimant has not submitted any new and relevant evidence nor has the Claimant shown that the order of October 17, 1991, was based on an obvious mistake of fact.

"It is noted that rule [Ohio Adm.Code] 4121-3-20(G)(1)(a) requires that the rehearing motion be accompanied by new and additional proof not previously considered and relevant to the VSSR.

"In this case, the claimant did not submit any new proof not previously considered 'with' his motion, therefore, a rehearing is not justified in this case. The claimant's statement that he was not at the hearing and will present testimony if a rehearing is granted is not sufficient to grant a rehearing as the claimant must present some type of new proof 'attached' to the rehearing motion itself before a rehearing could be granted."

Claimant filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus in the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, alleging that the commission abused its discretion in denying his application. The appellate court disagreed and denied the writ. This cause is now before this court upon an appeal as of right.

Stewart Jaffy & Associates Co., L.P.A., Stewart R. Jaffy and Marc J. Jaffy, Columbus, for appellant.

Betty D. Montgomery, Attorney General, and Jetta Mencer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

PER CURIAM.

We are asked to determine whether the commission abused its discretion in denying both claimant's VSSR and rehearing applications. For the reasons to follow, we find that it did not.

Of the several violations initially alleged, claimant now pursues only one--Ohio Adm.Code 4121:1-5-08(D)(1)(b). That section reads:

"The hood type guard shall be so designed as to prevent a kickback or a separate attachment that will prevent a kickback shall be provided. Anti-kickback devices shall be effective for all thicknesses of material that are cut."

The parties agree the saw had no anti-kickback device. The absence of a prescribed safety device, however, standing alone, is not enough to sustain a VSSR violation. The claimant must also show that the lack of the device proximately caused the injury. State ex rel. Bayless v. Indus. Comm. (1990), 50 Ohio St.3d 148, 552 N.E.2d 939. Applied here, claimant must establish that the lack of an anti-kickback device caused his injury.

The commission properly found that claimant did not carry his burden. The saw's operating manual referred to kickback prevention and defined "kickback" as follows:

"A 'KICKBACK' occurs during a rip-type operation when a part or all of the workpiece is thrown back violently toward the operator."

Claimant's own testimony established that he was injured when his hand was "jerked * * * into the saw." He was not injured by wood that was "thrown back violently toward the operator," the hazard against which the anti-kickback mechanism was designed to protect. Because specific safety requirements must be strictly construed in the employer's favor (State ex rel. Burton v. Indus. Comm. [1989], 46 Ohio St.3d 170, 545 N.E.2d 1216), the commission's VSSR denial, in this case, is not an abuse of discretion.

Claimant accuses the commission of not considering his deposition testimony. He apparently bases this allegation on the following statement:

"The finding and order are based upon the report of Polly S. Petry, Special Investigator for the Industrial Commission, evidence in file and the evidence adduced at hearing."

Because the deposition was not included in that list, claimant argues that pursuant to State ex rel. Fultz v. Indus. Comm. (1994), 69 Ohio St.3d 327, 631 N.E.2d 1057, we must assume that the deposition was overlooked. This is incorrect.

State ex rel. Mitchell v. Robbins & Myers, Inc. (1983), 6 Ohio St.3d 481, 6 OBR 531, 453 N.E.2d 721, directed the commission to cite in its orders the evidence on which it relied to reach its...

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