Jeffrey Kljun et al. v. Sarah Morrison, administrator, Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation et al., Case No. 2017-1576
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)
ISSUE: Does the "law-of-the-case doctrine" apply only to matters addressed in an earlier appeal of the case or can it extend to issues not addressed in the earlier appeal?
As part of the 2012 mid-biennium budget review bill, state lawmakers amended R.C. 4123.57(B), which required that workers' compensation payments for workers who lost limbs, organs, or other bodily systems to be paid "loss-of-use" compensation in weekly installments. Prior to the act, state law had allowed the payments to be made in weekly installments, but also allowed the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) to control the process through rules. In 2010, the BWC approved a rule allowing lump-sum payments for loss-of-use injuries.
Jeffrey Kljun and five other injured workers filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court against the bureau, claiming the 2012 amendment violated the one-subject rule of the Ohio Constitution because it was unrelated to the budget bill. The lawsuit requested an injunction that prevented the BWC from enforcing the new law and required lump-sum payments.
Both sides asked for summary judgment and the trial court ruled in the BWC's favor. Kljun appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court. The Eighth District found the amendment was unconstitutional and directed the trial court to enter a judgment in Kljun's favor.
The bureau didn't appeal the decision and neither party submitted any additional motions or documents to the trial court. The trial court then issued a written entry that declared the law unconstitutional and required lump-sum payments. The bureau again appealed the decision to the Eighth District. It argued that by declaring the law unconstitutional, the law reverted back to its prior form. In that form, the BWC was, by law, required to make monthly payments, even though it had the option to alter payments through rule-making. The BWC maintained the Eighth District never ordered the trial court to mandate lump-sum payments.
The Eighth District rejected the bureau's appeal, stating the trial court followed the "law-of-the-case" doctrine and applied the correct judgment. The BWC appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.