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WORKERS' COMPENSATION Family fails in appeal for more state benefits



Published: Wed, June 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The state compensation benefits have been argued in court since 2002.

WARREN -- The family of a deceased former Trumbull County commissioner, Thomas R. Battin, has failed in its court appeal to obtain additional state workers' compensation benefits.

The 11th District Court of Appeals examined the workers' compensation claim and issued an opinion this week.

Battin was injured in 1985 a car accident during the course of his county employment. The Ohio State Highway Patrol cited speed and alcohol as contributing factors, but Battin was not charged.

He lived in an institution for 11 years and received workers' compensation benefits for multiple conditions. Battin died in October 1996.

His wife, Karen, wanted additional benefits because she found out after his death that her husband was blind in his right eye, and that the blindness may have been caused by the crash.

She filed a new claim with the Bureau of Workers' Compensation but it was denied.

She then sued the state for the money in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, which granted the BWC's motion to dismiss the Battins' administrative appeal.

The appeals court has now upheld that trial court ruling.

The appellate judges were asked to determine whether a decision finding overpayment to the Battins because of use of the wrong rate of payment is appealable under state code.

History

On Nov. 6, 2002, the BWC issued an order finding that mother and her son Reed had each been overpaid almost $30,000 because the 1985 maximum rate of $177 per week should have been used to calculate benefits rather than the 2000 rate.

The Battins appealed to the Industrial Commission arguing that BWC should use the 1996 rate, which represents the date of death and discovery of lost vision, or in the alternative, the 1989 rate, which claimed to be the year of the lost vision.

On June 17, 2003, the Industrial Commission refused to hear the appeal.

The Battins then filed an appeal in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. The BWC administrator filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds that the trial court has no jurisdiction to hear appeal of an issue that does not deal with the right to participate or to continue to participate.

On July 2, 2004, the trial court granted the administrator's motion and dismissed the case. The Battins, in their appeal to the 11th District court, said the trial court was wrong to dismiss that appeal.

But based on the Supreme Court case law, a decision on whether there is overpayment because of the use of the wrong year's rate is not a decision on the right to participate, or the right to continue to participate, the appeals court said.

"Overpayment seemed to be undisputed; it was only the amount of overpayment in dispute, which required a decision as to what year's rate was applicable," said Judge Joseph J. Vukovich of the 7th District Court of Appeals. "None of these decisions involve the right to participate or to continue to participate. As such, the trial court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction was correct."




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