Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Supreme Court Sacks Ravens' Appeal

00-1744. Baltimore Ravens Inc. v. Self-Insuring Emp. Evaluation Bd.
Franklin App. Nos. 99AP-1262 and 99AP-1263. Judgment reversed and cause remanded.
Moyer, C.J., Douglas, Resnick, F.E. Sweeney, Pfeifer and Lundberg Stratton, JJ., concur.
Cook, J., dissents.


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(March 27, 2002) The Supreme Court voted 6-1 that the Baltimore Ravens must pay a $50,000 fine lodged against it more than three years ago by an Ohio workers' compensation review board.

The decision arose from complaints over unpaid claims filed by five men who played for the team when it was headquartered in Ohio as the Cleveland Browns.

Justice Alice Robie Resnick wrote the court's opinion, which finds that the Franklin County Common Pleas Court should have dismissed the team's appeal of the review board's order. The trial court was without jurisdiction to hear the matter, the justices said.

Because the team maintained its own funds for workers' compensation claims rather than contributing money to the state workers' compensation fund, it was categorized as a self-insurer. Consequently, the dispute was referred to the Self-Insuring Employers Evaluation Board.

The board found that the Ravens "consistently refused to pay workers' compensation awards, acting in a manner inconsistent with its legal obligations" and imposed a $10,000 fine for each complaint. The Ravens appealed the decision to the common pleas court, which sent the case back to the board for a hearing.

The board appealed to the Supreme Court, asserting that the Ravens were not permitted to appeal the board's decision. The board argued that it is not an agency for the purposes of the Ohio statute that provides "any party adversely affected by any order of agency" with an appeal to the common pleas court of Franklin County.

The Supreme Court agreed. "Disciplinary orders issued by the Self-Insuring Employers Evaluation Board…are not subject to judicial review," Justice Resnick wrote.

The court rejected arguments that the board is an agency distinct from the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. "Rather than being a separate and independent agency…the board is inextricably entangled with and dependent upon the bureau."

"The board is not self-sustaining or self-governing. It is not charged with administering or implementing any legislation, does not have its own staff or agenda, and does not promulgate nay rules or regulations. The board is devoid of power to execute or enforce its own recommendations and cannot autonomously impose a penalty, revoke or refuse to renew a self-insurer's status, or otherwise take disciplinary action against a self-insuring employer. Only the [bureau] administrator has the statutory authority to take such action," Justice Resnick wrote.

Justice Deborah L. Cook dissented, writing that the statutory scheme "evinces legislative intent to establish the board as a separate agency from the bureau."

Irwin J. Dinn, for the Baltimore Ravens.

Betty D. Montgomery and William J. McDonald, 614.4666.6696, for the Self-insuring Employers Evaluation Board.

Neil Cornrich, for Ricky Bolden, Paul Ferren, Mark Harper, Lee Jones and Stacey Hairston.

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