Thomas v. Conrad

Decision Date22 April 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97-685,97-685
Citation692 N.E.2d 205,81 Ohio St.3d 475
PartiesTHOMAS, Appellee, v. CONRAD, Administrator, Appellee, et al.; NCR Corporation, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

In 1987, appellee Malinda Thomas suffered a work-related injury during the course of her employment with appellant, NCR Corporation, f.k.a. AT & T Global Information Solutions. Her workers' compensation claim was allowed for injuries to her ribs, left hip, left leg, low back, and a psychogenic pain disorder. In 1992, Thomas suffered nonwork-related injuries to her wrists, arms, and back when she was attacked by a guard dog.

In July 1994, NCR moved to terminate its responsibility with regard to Thomas's existing claim, contending that the dog attack constituted an intervening injury sufficient to terminate Thomas's right to receive further compensation for her work-related injury. NCR claimed Thomas's current complaints were not causally related to her allowed conditions. Following a hearing, a district hearing officer denied the motion.

Upon appeal by NCR, a staff hearing officer modified the order to include the finding that Thomas's subsequent injury did not constitute an intervening injury to the body parts and conditions already recognized in her existing claim. The dog attack had resulted in injuries to Thomas's wrists and arms and a mild temporary exacerbation of her allowed back condition. Medical services related to the dog-attack injuries were not payable under her workers' compensation claim. The hearing officer affirmed the district hearing officer's order in all other respects. NCR again appealed, and the Industrial Commission refused to hear the appeal.

NCR filed a notice of appeal from the decision of the Industrial Commission staff hearing officer with the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas pursuant to R.C. 4123.512(A). Thomas responded to the notice of appeal by filing a complaint alleging that the employer's appeal involved the extent of her disability, which is not the proper subject of an R.C. 4123.512 appeal. Thomas also filed a motion to dismiss, citing as grounds the court's lack of subject-matter jurisdiction to review the matter.

The trial court granted Thomas's motion to dismiss on the basis that it lacked jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a ruling of the Industrial Commission that does not terminate the right to participate in the workers' compensation system once that right has already been recognized. 1

The court of appeals affirmed. The court acknowledged that a decision allowing Thomas to continue to participate in the workers' compensation system seemingly involved a "right to participate"; however, pursuant to Felty v. AT&T Technologies, Inc. (1992), 65 Ohio St.3d 234, 602 N.E.2d 1141, once the right to participate is determined, only a ruling that terminates that right is appealable pursuant to R.C. 4123.512. Here, the Industrial Commission refused to terminate Thomas's continued participation in the workers' compensation system; thus, the commission's ruling was not appealable. In addition, the court determined that NCR's equal protection argument also failed because the ruling did not deprive NCR of equal access to the courts.

The court of appeals certified that its decision was in conflict with the decision of the Franklin County Court of Appeals in Moore v. Trimble (Dec. 21, 1993), Franklin App. No. 93APE08-1084, unreported, 1993 WL 531289, and the decision of the Stark County Court of Appeals in Jones v. Massillon Bd. of Edn. (June 13, 1994), Stark App. No. 94CA0018, unreported, 1994 WL 313721. This cause is now before this court upon our determination that a conflict exists.

E.S. Gallon & Associates, and Joseph R. Ebenger, Dayton, for appellee Malinda Thomas.

Betty D. Montgomery, Attorney General, Steven P. Fixler and Maxine Young Asmah, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellees C. James Conrad, Administrator, Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Industrial Commission of Ohio.

Dunlevey, Mahan & Furry, Gary T. Brinsfield and D. Patrick Kasson, Dayton, for appellant.

Stewart Jaffy & Associates Co., L.P.A., Stewart R. Jaffy and Marc H. Jaffy, Columbus, urging affirmance for amicus curiae, Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Joondeph, Shaffer & Bittel, P.L.L., and David H. Shaffer, Akron, urging reversal for amicus curiae, East Manufacturing Corporation.

LUNDBERG STRATTON, Justice.

We are once again asked to interpret the statutory right to appeal an order of the Industrial Commission granted to a claimant or employer in R.C. 4123.512. The statute provides: "The claimant or the employer may appeal an order of the industrial commission * * * other than a decision as to the extent of disability to the court of common pleas * * *." We have narrowly interpreted this provision to allow appeals of only "those decisions involving a claimant's right to participate or to continue to participate in the [State Insurance] [F]und." Afrates v. Lorain (1992), 63 Ohio St.3d 22, 584 N.E.2d 1175, paragraph one of the syllabus.

The specific issue before us is whether the Industrial Commission's order that denied NCR's request to terminate Thomas's participation in the fund constitutes an appealable order. For the reasons that follow, we hold that the commission's order in this case did not decide "a claimant's right to participate or continue to participate" in the fund; instead, it involved Thomas's extent of disability. Thus, the order was not appealable under R.C. 4123.512 and the courts below correctly dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

It is undisputed that Thomas's right to participate had already been established. NCR then sought to completely terminate Thomas's participation on the basis that the intervening injury of the dog attack caused Thomas's current complaints and that they were not causally related to her allowed industrial injury. NCR contends...

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    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • November 15, 2000
    ...extent of a claimant's disability, on the other hand, are not appealable and must be challenged in mandamus. Thomas v. Conrad (1998), 81 Ohio St.3d 475, 477, 692 N.E.2d 205, 207; Felty v. AT&T Technologies, Inc. (1992), 65 Ohio St.3d 234, 237, 602 N.E.2d 1141, 1144; Zavatsky v. Stringer (19......
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    • Ohio Supreme Court
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    ...and its order, not how the motion was posited, to determine whether the order is appealable under R.C. 4123.512. Thomas v. Conrad, 81 Ohio St.3d 475, 479, 692 N.E.2d 205 (1998). If we held that a decision to no longer compensate an individual for an allowed condition was in essence the same......
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