In the case of Holmes v. Crawford Machine, Inc. (2013), 134 Ohio St.3d 303, 2012-Ohio-5380, the court resolved that the language of R.C. 4123.512(F) does not require a claimant to be victorious on the entire appeal in order to be reimbursed for costs, nor does it require a trial court to allocate costs between conditions that are lost or won.
In the case, Holmes sought recognition of a workers’ compensation claim for a number of conditions which he contended occurred when he was jolted with electricity while working on a machine at work. The Administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation allowed Holmes’ workers’ compensation claim for one condition, a left shoulder/arm sprain. This decision was appealed by the employer and a District Hearing of the Ohio Industrial Commission denied the claim. On Holmes’ appeal, a Staff Hearing Officer of the Ohio Industrial Commission reversed the decision and allowed the claim for left shoulder sprain, electrical shock, low back strain, left rotator cuff tear, left posterior shoulder dislocation, and abrasion of the right fifth finger. The employer’s appeal of this determination was refused by the Ohio Industrial Commission and the employer appealed the decision to a court of common pleas. After a trial by jury, the trial court allowed the claim for only one condition, “abrasion right fifth finger,” and awarded Holmes costs in the amount of $7,551.23 and attorney fees in the amount of $4,200.
Both the employer and Holmes appealed the judgment to the Third District Court of Appeals. The employer appealed the decision as to the trial court’s award of costs and attorney fees arguing that Holmes had not incurred such costs or fees with respect to the issue on which he prevailed, an abrasion to his right fifth finger. Holmes appealed the judgment as it only granted one of his sought conditions. The Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment with respect to Holmes’ appeal, though reversed the trial court’s award of costs and attorney fees. With regard to the later determination, the Third District Court of Appeals found that such decision was in conflict with the Tenth District Court of Appeals’ decision in Hollar v. Pleasant Twp., 10th Dist. No. 03AP-250, 2003-Ohio-6827, WL 22989243. The Tenth District Court of Appeals held in the Hollar case that as long as the claimant was successful as to at least one of his or her claims, that the trial court does not abuse its discretion in awarding the claimant all of his or her costs. Based on such conflict, the issue was brought before the Ohio Supreme Court.
The court based its resolution on the plain language of R.C. 4123.512(F) which states:
The cost of any legal proceedings authorized by this section, including an attorney's fee to the claimant's attorney to be fixed by the trial judge, based upon the effort expended, in the event the claimant's right to participate or to continue to participate in the fund is established upon the final determination of an appeal, shall be taxed against the employer or the commission if the commission or the administrator rather than the employer, contested the right of the claimant to participate in the fund. The attorney's fee shall not exceed forty-two hundred dollars. (Emphasis added).
The Ohio Supreme Court resolved that the language of R.C. 4123.512(F) does not require a claimant to be victorious on his our her entire appeal in order for him or her to be reimbursed for his or her costs, nor does it require a trial court to allocate costs between conditions that are lost or won. This decision may be a call for legislative revision.