Ohio Third District Court of Appeals Holds Filing an Additional Condition Request Does Not Toll the Statute of Limitations in a Workers’ Comp Claim
Over the years, employers have become accustomed to the practice of an injured worker filing a request for compensation (typically an initial award or increase in permanent partial disability) or medical treatment days before the applicable statute of limitations in order to keep the claim alive. It has long been held that an application for such benefits tolls the statute of limitations while that issue is adjudicated before the Industrial Commission. However, the recent decision from the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals in Chatfield v. Whirlpool Corp. held that the mere filing of a request to amend a claim for additional conditions is not sufficient to toll the statute of limitations prescribed in Ohio Rev. Code §4123.52. Thus, an employer must be vigilant in making sure a request is actually for compensation or medical treatment around the time the statute of limitations is scheduled to expire.
The Chatfield case dealt with a 2014 injury, meaning the statute of limitations would expire five years after the last payment of medical benefits or compensation. The injured worker received an award of permanent partial disability benefits in August 2015, and the last medical bill was paid the following month. In June of 2019, the injured worker filed a C-86 motion requesting her claim be amended to include multiple right shoulder conditions. These conditions were denied by both a district hearing officer and staff hearing officer. After further appeal was refused by the Industrial Commission, the injured worker filed a Notice of Appeal and Complaint into the Court of Common Pleas in May 2020. In February 2021, the employer filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing the claim had reached its statute of limitations in September of 2020. The trial court ruled in favor of the employer, finding that the denied C-86 motion to amend the claim for additional allowances was not sufficient to toll the statute of limitations. As such, there was not an active claim to be adjudicated.
The injured worker appealed the trial court’s order to the Third District Court of Appeals. The injured worker argued her additional allowance request should be construed as an application for additional treatment, compensation and medical coverage pertaining to the additional conditions at issue. In December 2021, the Third District Court of Appeals held that the language of Ohio Revised Code §4123.52 explicitly and unambiguously requires the payment of compensation to toll the statute of limitations. The motion at issue made absolutely no reference to a request for either compensation or medical benefits. Indeed, it was not accompanied by a request for temporary total disability or a C-9 for any treatment pertaining to the requested conditions. As such, the appellate court held the claim expired in September 2020, due to the fact that the last medical benefits were paid in September 2015.
A savvy injured worker’s attorney will often request compensation and/or medical benefits along with a request for additional conditions to circumvent this issue. However, it behooves an employer to pay careful attention to any motion being filed around the time a claim is nearing the statute of limitations. The Chatfield case provides both sides of the bar a lesson in such circumstances.
Should you have any questions about this issue or any other workers’ compensation issues, please reach out to a Dinsmore attorney.
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