Zavatsky v. Stringer

Decision Date07 December 1978
Docket NumberNos. 78-76 and 78-241,s. 78-76 and 78-241
Citation10 O.O.3d 503,384 N.E.2d 693,56 Ohio St.2d 386
Parties, 10 O.O.3d 503 ZAVATSKY, Appellant, v. STRINGER, Admr., Bureau of Workers' Compensation, et al., Appellees. STATLER HILTON HOTELS, Appellant, v. WILLIAMS, et al., Appellees.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. An order of the Industrial Commission, which either denies or allows a claimant the right to participate in the Workers' Compensation Fund for injury to a specific part or parts of the body involving loss or impairment of bodily functions on the basis that such was or was not the result of a compensable injury, is a decision other than one as to the extent of disability and, thus, pursuant to R.C. 4123.519, may be appealed to the Court of Common Pleas by the claimant in the event of such a denial, or by the employer in the event of such an allowance.

2. A determination of "extent of disability" under R.C. 4123.519 presupposes that claimant has been allowed the "right to participate" in the Workers' Compensation Fund for injury to a specific part or parts of the body involving the loss or impairment of bodily functions. The decision of the Industrial Commission as to "extent of disability" constitutes a determination of the basis for the computation of the compensation or benefits payable under the provisions of the workers' compensation law for those losses or impairments of bodily functions allowed as compensable injuries.

3. The right of either the claimant or the employer to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas from a decision of the Industrial Commission which is "other than a decision as to the extent of disability" is not affected by the fact that the claimant is receiving or will receive compensation or benefits for allowed injuries involving losses or impairments of bodily functions other than those which are the subject of the appeal. Such right of appeal may be exercised by either the claimant or the employer, regardless of whether the decision granting or denying the right to so participate is a part of the same order or is part of a prior order which also grants or denies a right to participate for other injuries involving loss or impairment of other bodily functions.

Both of these causes involve related questions as to the right of a party to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas from a decision of the Industrial Commission in an injury case. They were heard before this court on the same day and will be considered together.

In case No. 78-76, appellant, John Zavatsky, an employee of appellee Republic Steel Corporation, a self-insured employer under the Workers' Compensation Act, was injured in an industrial accident on April 27, 1972. Zavatsky timely filed an application for compensation, claiming injury to his left elbow and back. On March 20, 1973, the deputy administrator of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, entered an order allowing the claim in part and disallowing it in part. Specifically, it was ordered that the claim be allowed for injury described as "(l)aceration and abrasion to left elbow with swelling," but denied as to claimant's low back and left leg condition on the basis that such was not the result of or related to the allowed injury.

The deputy administrator, by order of November 19, 1974, denied claimant's application for reconsideration with respect to his low back and left leg condition, and affirmed the prior order of March 20, 1973.

Timely notice of appeal and complaint were then filed by Zavatsky in the Court of Common Pleas of Mahoning County. Republic Steel moved for summary judgment on the basis that the decision appealed from was one as to "extent of * * * disability." The trial court granted the motion and entered final judgment against Zavatsky. The Court of Appeals, one judge dissenting, affirmed.

In case No. 78-241, claimant, Caroline Williams, was injured on October 13, 1971, while employed by the Statler Hilton Hotel. The Bureau of Workers' Compensation allowed her claim for injury described as "contusion of the scalp and abrasion of the left wrist." No appeal was taken from the order of allowance.

On February 12, 1974, Williams filed a motion seeking to amend the original decision allowing the claim to include a new medical condition described as "hysterical neurosis." On October 9, 1974, the bureau granted such motion and specifically ordered that the allowance of the claim be amended to include "hysterical neurosis." Upon appeal by the employer to the regional board of review, the order of October 9, 1974, was affirmed and the Industrial Commission refused to hear the employer's appeal.

The employer, Statler Hilton, timely filed notice of appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County. Williams thereupon filed a "complaint" and a motion to dismiss the appeal on the basis that the decision was not appealable, involving only the extent of disability. The trial court granted the motion. The Court of Appeals, one judge dissenting, affirmed.

These causes are now before this court pursuant to the allowance of motions to certify the record.

Traxler, Malkoff, Boyd & Smith Co., L.P.A., and John C. Boyd, Youngstown, for appellant in case No. 78-76.

Squire, Sanders & Dempsey and Richard W. McLaren, Jr., Cleveland, for appellant in case No. 78-241.

Harrington, Huxley & Smith, Francis Leland Pico and Frederick S. Coombs, III, Youngstown, for appellee Republic Steel Corp. in case No. 78-76.

Edward J. Kirk, Cleveland, for appellee Caroline Williams in case No. 78-241.

William J. Brown, Atty. Gen., and John F. Livorno, Columbus, for appellee Stringer, Administrator, in case No. 78-76; and for appellees Krouse, Administrator and Industrial Commission in case No. 78-241.

LEACH, Chief Justice.

The single question presented to this court in case No. 78-76 is whether the order of the deputy administrator of March 20, 1973, allowing the claim for injury to the left elbow, but denying the claim as to the low back and left leg condition, is an order "other than a decision as to the extent of disability" within the purview of R.C. 4123.519. 1

On the basis that the March 20, 1973, decision accepted jurisdiction of the claim by allowing the claim, ordering certain benefits to be paid on it and denying other benefits, the Court of Common Pleas concluded that "the decision of the Industrial Commission does not constitute an absolute denial of plaintiff's (claimant's) underlying right to participate in the fund and is a decision as to the extent of disability of the plaintiff (claimant)."

The opinion of the Court of Appeals, affirming the Court of Common Pleas, concluded that "(i)f a part of a claim is allowed and a part is refused, there has not been a 'denial on a jurisdiction(al) ground,' " citing as authority therefor certain language contained in Mooney v. Stringer (1976), 48 Ohio St.2d 375, at page 377, 358 N.E.2d 612. The Court of Common Pleas cited, as its authority, State ex rel. General Motors Corp. v. Indus. Comm. (1975), 42 Ohio St.2d 278, 328 N.E.2d 387; State ex rel. Commercial Motor Freight v. Stebbins (1975), 42 Ohio St.2d 389, 329 N.E.2d 102; State ex rel. General Motors v. Indus. Comm. (1975), 44 Ohio St.2d 46, 337 N.E.2d 782; Ford Motor Co v. Mosijowsky (1975), 44 Ohio St.2d 109, 338 N.E.2d 762; and Mooney v. Stringer, supra.

The single question presented in case No. 78-241 is whether the order of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation (affirmed by the regional board of review and appeal therefrom refused by the Industrial Commission), is an order "other than a decision as to the extent of disability." The order of the Court of Common Pleas dismissing the appeal was routinely entered without any reason being given therefor. The majority opinion of the Court of Appeals, affirming such dismissal, relied upon certain language contained in this court's opinions in Reeves v. Flowers (1971), 27 Ohio St.2d 40, 271 N.E.2d 769; State ex rel. Campbell v. Indus. Comm. (1971), 28 Ohio St.2d 154, 277 N.E.2d 219; Rummel v. Flowers (1972), 28 Ohio St.2d 230, 277 N.E.2d 422; and Mooney v. Stringer, supra (48 Ohio St.2d 375, 358 N.E.2d 612).

R.C. 4123.519 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

"The claimant or the employer may appeal a decision of the industrial commission in any injury case, other than a decision as to the extent of disability, to the court of common pleas of the county in which the injury was inflicted or in which the contract of employment was made if the injury occurred outside the state. * * *

"* * *of

"* * * The court, or the jury under the instructions of the court, if a jury is demanded, shall determine the right of the claimant to participate or to continue to participate in the fund upon the evidence adduced at the hearing of such action."

The underlying rationale adopted by the lower courts herein is simply to the effect that so long as a claimant is receiving compensation or benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act for other injuries or other losses or impairments of bodily functions, any and all orders of the Industrial Commission either granting or denying claims seeking the Right to participate in the Workers' Compensation because of injuries or losses or impairments of bodily functions Other than those for which the claimant is being compensated necessarily become decisions "as to the extent of disability," and, thus, may not be appealed either by a claimant or by an employer. Such rationale would preclude either the claimant or the employer from appealing that portion of the original order in cases where, as here, the claim is allowed for one specific part of the body but denied for another part of the body. This rationale likewise would necessarily deny to both the claimant and the employer any right of right of appeal to a Court of Common Pleas in those cases where, after the original allowance of a claim for injury to or loss or impairment of bodily functions in any part of the body, a claim is later made...

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