Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Co. v. Mayfield, s. 83-839

Decision Date06 June 1984
Docket NumberNos. 83-839,83-854,s. 83-839
Citation11 OBR 315,11 Ohio St.3d 70,464 N.E.2d 133
Parties, 11 O.B.R. 315 YOUGHIOGHENY & OHIO COAL CO., Appellant, v. MAYFIELD, Admr., Appellee. 1 JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL, INC., Appellee, v. MAYFIELD, Admr., Appellant. 2
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

An employer's appeal, pursuant to R.C. 4123.519, from an adverse ruling by the Industrial Commission is not subject to dismissal due to the death of the employee during the pendency of the appeal.

The appeals herein address the nature of appellate review stemming from rulings by the Industrial Commission of Ohio ("commission"). Due to the similarity of the facts and issues presented, the cases have been consolidated for final determination.

In case No. 83-839, Robert Fairclough, Jr., filed a claim for occupational disease benefits with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation ("bureau"). The claim alleged that Fairclough was suffering from coal workers' pneumoconiosis which is a respiratory disease caused by the continuous inhalation of mineral or metallic particles. The regional board of review subsequently ruled in favor of his claim. The Industrial Commission affirmed the board.

Fairclough's employer, the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company, is a self-insured employer under this state's workers' compensation statutes. It appealed the commission's order by filing a notice of appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Harrison County pursuant to R.C. 4123.519.

Fairclough died after the requisite pleadings had been filed, but just prior to trial. The trial court, upon motion, dismissed the action, thereby precluding the employer's appeal. The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal.

In case No. 83-854, Willie Bullock obtained temporary total disability benefits from his self-insured employer. He then filed an application for a determination as to his percentage of permanent partial disability. The commission ultimately approved a finding of twenty-five percent temporary partial disability on the basis of impairment in earning capacity.

Bullock's employer filed a timely appeal in the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County from the commission's order. However, Bullock died before a petition could be filed on his behalf as required by R.C. 4123.519. Thereupon, the trial court dismissed the appeal. The court of appeals reversed the dismissal by holding that a claimant's death subsequent to an employer's appeal does not preclude the employer from challenging a compensation award.

The causes are now before this court pursuant to the allowance of motions to certify the records.

Kinder, Kinder & Hanlon and Gerald P. Duff, St. Clairsville, for appellant in case No. 83-839.

Crede Calhoun Co., L.P.A., and Crede Calhoun, Cleveland, for appellee Jones & Laughlin Steel, Inc., in case No. 83-854.

Anthony J. Celebrezze, Jr., Atty. Gen., Gerald H. Waterman and Lee M. Smith, Asst. Attys. Gen., for appellee and appellant James L. Mayfield, Admr., in case Nos. 83-839 and -854, respectively.

HOLMES, Justice.

The specific issue presented is whether an employer's appeal from an adverse ruling by the Industrial Commission is subject to dismissal due to the death of the employee during the pendency of the appeal. We hold that such appeal is not precluded by the employee's death.

R.C. 4123.519 provides an employer or a claimant with the opportunity to appeal certain adverse rulings by the commission. The appeal is initiated by filing a notice of appeal pursuant to the requirements set forth in the statute. Upon filing of the notice, jurisdiction of the claim vests in the court of common pleas. See Cadle v. General Motors Corp. (1976), 45 Ohio St.2d 28 , 340 N.E.2d 403, paragraph one of the syllabus; Smoliga v. Keller (1965), 3 Ohio App.2d 250, 210 N.E.2d 269 .

The appeal authorized by R.C. 4123.519 is unique in that it is considered a trial de novo. State ex rel. Federated Dept. Stores v. Brown (1956), 165 Ohio St. 521, 138 N.E.2d 248 ; Crabtree v. Young (1965), 1 Ohio St.2d 93, 95, 204 N.E.2d 685 ; Zuljevic v. Midland-Ross (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 116, 118, 403 N.E.2d 986 ; Smith v. Young (1963), 119 Ohio App. 176, 197 N.E.2d 835 ; Jones v. Keller (1966), 9 Ohio App.2d 210, 223 N.E.2d 657 . The burden of proof, as well as the burden of going forward, remains with the claimant. Swift & Co. v. Wreede (1959), 110 Ohio App. 252, 168 N.E.2d 757 ; Smith v. Young, supra. This court recently stated that " * * * where an employer appeals an unfavorable administrative decision to the court the claimant must, in effect, reestablish his workers' compensation claim to the satisfaction of the common pleas court even though the claimant has previously satisfied a similar burden at the administrative level." Zuljevic v. Midland-Ross, supra, 62 Ohio St.2d at 118, 403 N.E.2d 986.

From this authority it is apparent that a claimant must again substantiate his claim in order to refute an employer's appeal. If the claimant dies during the appellate process, he obviously cannot personally satisfy the required burden of proof. The appeal, however, should not be dismissed in favor of either party.

This court is of the opinion that upon the employee's death, the state of Ohio becomes a real party in interest to the litigation. R.C. 4123.519 provides that if an award of compensation is proved to be incorrect upon appeal, then the benefits improperly disbursed to a claimant will be charged against the state surplus fund as provided for in R.C. 4123.34(B). Thus, the employer recovers any amount of improperly paid benefits from the fund as opposed to the employee's estate.

In order to preserve the surplus fund, we believe the correct procedure is to permit the state, which is already a party to the appeal, to proceed in place of the claimant. This will provide the employer with its statutory right to appeal a decision of the commission and also allow the state an opportunity to protect the fund. 3

Finally, counsel for the Administrator of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation argue that a workers' compensation claim abates upon the death of the claimant; therefore, the appeal should be dismissed in favor of the claimant. They cite Ratliff v. Flowers (1970), 25 Ohio App.2d 113, 266 N.E.2d 848 , as support for their argument. However, Ratliff is easily distinguished from the case sub judice.

In Ratliff, the employee was initially granted benefits by the commission. He filed a second claim for additional compensation which was denied. The employee appealed the ruling but died prior to any disposition of his appeal. The court subsequently found that an employee must recover pursuant to his individual right under the workers' compensation statutes, and that such right abates upon the death of the employee.

While the Ratliff court held that death abates an employee's cause of action, we do not believe the same is true for an appeal initiated by the employer. If we were to extend Ratliff to include the present situation, this court would violate the rationale behind R.C. 4123.519 and preclude an employer's appeal through no fault of that party.

We conclude, therefore, that an employer's appeal pursuant to R.C. 4123.519 from an adverse ruling by the Industrial Commission is not subject to dismissal due to the death of the employee during the pendency of the appeal.

Accordingly, in case No. 83-839, the judgment of the court of appeals is reversed and the cause is remanded to the court of common pleas in accordance with the holding of this court. In case No. 83-854, the judgment of the court of appeals is affirmed; however, the cause is remanded to the court of common pleas in accordance with the holding of this court.

Judgments accordingly.

WILLIAM B. BROWN, SWEENEY and LOCHER, JJ., concur.

FRANK D. CELEBREZZE, C.J., and CLIFFORD F. BROWN and JAMES P. CELEBREZZE, JJ., dissent.

FRANK D. CELEBREZZE, Chief Justice, dissenting.

I must dissent from today's decision because, in my view, an appeal to the court of common pleas under R.C. 4123.519 abates upon the death of the claimant.

The right to appeal a ruling of the Industrial Commission to the court of common pleas is purely a creation of statute and, as such, the scope of such an appeal is defined entirely by statute. As this court stated in Cadle v. General Motors Corp. (1976), 45 Ohio St.2d 28, 33, 340 N.E.2d 403 :

"[I]t must be borne in mind that a litigant has no inherent right of appeal in this area and that the statutory enactment of the Workmen's Compensation Act created a special right of appeal where none existed before, and '[w]here a statute confers the right of appeal, adherence to the conditions thereby imposed is essential to the enjoyment of the right conferred.' "

We have held that the claimant bears the burden of going forward as well as the burden of proof in an appeal under R.C. 4123.519. See, e.g., Zuljevic v. Midland-Ross (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 116, 118, 403 N.E.2d 986 . This is true regardless of whether the claimant or employer prevailed in the administrative proceeding. As we stated in Zuljevic, supra, at 118, 403 N.E.2d 986:

"[W]here an employer appeals an unfavorable administrative decision to the court the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
54 cases
  • State ex rel. Navistar, Inc. v. Indus. Comm'n of Ohio
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • March 4, 2020
    ...Death{¶ 8} Navistar asserts two reasons why we should proceed to decide the case. First, citing Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Co. v. Mayfield , 11 Ohio St.3d 70, 464 N.E.2d 133 (1984), it argues that an employer's appeal from an adverse decision by the commission is not subject to dismissal due ......
  • Bennett v. Admr., Ohio Bureau of Workers' Comp.
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • December 5, 2012
    ...decisions involving a claimant's right to participate or to continue to participate in the fund”); Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Co. v. Mayfield, 11 Ohio St.3d 70, 71, 464 N.E.2d 133 (1984) (“The appeal authorized by [former] R.C. 4123.519 [now 4123.512] is unique in that it is considered a tria......
  • State ex rel. Dillard Dept. Stores v. Ryan, 06AP-726.
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • October 18, 2007
    ...to participate in the Workers' Compensation Fund without regard to the commission's findings. Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Co. v. Mayfield (1984), 11 Ohio St.3d 70, 71, 11 OBR 315, 464 N.E.2d 133; Rice v. Stouffer Foods Corp. (Nov. 6, 1997), Cuyahoga App. No. 72515, 1997 WL {¶ 17} In Kaiser, th......
  • Paul v. I-Force, LLC
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • June 23, 2017
    ...has previously satisfied a similar burden at the administrative level.' " Robinson at 366, quoting Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Co. v. Mayfield, 11 Ohio St.3d 70, 72, 464 N.E.2d 133 (1984). {¶ 18} In two cases, the Supreme Court of Ohio considered issues pertaining to the ability, in employer-f......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT