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Published: Friday, 6/20/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

Employers seek restitution

Attorney says Ohio workers’ comp owes $859M

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
DeRoche DeRoche
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With nearly 24,000 employers in northwest Ohio due restitution for overpayments to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, the state should not challenge a court decision and repay $859 million in premiums, an attorney for the businesses said.

James DeRoche, the lead attorney for the 270,000 employers who are entitled to $859 million in reimbursements, on Thursday urged Gov. John Kasich to comply with a recent state appellate court decision in the class-action lawsuit and not appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

“It is important that the government and the governor understand the impact the overcharges have had on these businesses. They are the life blood of the economy,” Mr. DeRoche told reporters on Thursday outside One Government Center.

On May 15, the 8th District Court of Appeals ordered the BWC to repay the money. The decision upheld the ruling of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle that the BWC charged excessively high premiums to the employers.

“They lost, and now they owe the money. They should return the money. These further appeals are needless. It is just a way to delay justice,” Mr. DeRoche said.

Steve Buehrer, administrator of the BWC, has until June 30 to decide whether to appeal the appellate court ruling.

Melissa Vince, BWC spokesman, said a decision to appeal has not been made.

“We are considering an appeal on this case. Our first obligation is to the state insurance fund, which was set up to collect premiums to care for injured workers,” she said. “We believe our actions were appropriate. We do not believe that any over charges have occurred.”

Reynolds Reynolds
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Plaintiffs in the class action that began in 2007 include Brad Reynolds, the owner of Reynolds Construction Co. in Toledo, who attended the news conference. His company is owed $15,435.

He said the premiums he was charged put a strain on his residential construction and remodeling business, and he continues to struggle financially. He said he is trying to make do with a 12-year-old pickup that needs repairs.

“The BWC rates went up more so than our casualty insurance,” he said. “I was frustrated by the steep rate increases.”

Ohio businesses that think they are owed money by the state BWC can obtain information at pay-nowbwc.com.

Money for the payouts would come from assets of the state’s $7 billion insurance fund for injured workers. Mr. DeRoche said the reimbursements would provide an influx of money into the economy and prove that Ohio is business friendly.

“We expect that what these businesses have to say will be important to the governor,” he said. “We need his help to force this agency, which seems incapable of being self-corrected, to do the right thing.”

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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