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Published: Thursday, 7/20/2006

Ohio agency to return $52M held from injured workers


COLUMBUS - The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation yesterday announced plans to return $52 million it claimed from injured workers under a pair of laws struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court five years ago.

To recoup its own costs, the BWC had claimed the money from proceeds collected by injured workers from lawsuits or settlements with insurance companies or other third parties between Oct. 20, 1993, and June 27, 2001, the year the court found the laws unconstitutional.

The bureau's decision will affect about 7,900 workers. The court had ruled that the laws were too vague in describing what the bureau and self-insured employers were entitled to collect.

The bureau has resumed collecting such funds under a 2003 law that replaced the two deemed to be defective. The new law was negotiated with trial lawyers who had challenged its predecessors.

"Quite simply, today's decision comes down to doing the right thing," said BWC Administrator Bill Mabe. "Because the Supreme Court found the prior subrogation statute unconstitutional, the appropriate action is to return all monies collected under what was clearly determined to be a flawed law."

He said the decision will not affect the bureau's bottom line because $50 million had already been set aside for this contingency. Mr. Mabe also noted bureau costs are down $300 million from last year.

Those eligible for the rebates will be notified within 60 days, according to BWC spokesman Jeremy Jackson. Workers could expect the rebates within 30 days of mailing back completed forms.

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