Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio

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The Supreme Court answered a certified question from the Unitde States District Court by holding that Ohio Rev. Code 4123.35(O) is not unconstitutional as applied to the tort claims of an enrolled subcontractor’s employee who is injured while working on a self-insured construction project and whose injury is compensable under Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws. Daniel Stolz was injured while working as a concrete finisher for Jostin Construction. Jostin was a subcontractor of Messer Construction Company, the general contractor for the project. Under section 4123.35(O), Messer provided workers’ compensation coverage on the project for employees of subcontractors like Jostin that chose to enroll in Messer’s self-insurance plan. Stolz eventually sued Messer and several subcontractors for negligence. Messer and three enrolled subcontractors argued that they were immune from liability under section 4123.35(O). The Supreme Court concluded that the statute provides immunity to both general contractors and enrolled subcontractors from tort claims brought by employees of other enrolled subcontractors. Stolz later amended his complaint to allege that section 4123.35(O) is unconstitutional. The enrolled subcontractors petitioned the district court to certify a question of state law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that section 4123.35(O) does not violate the Ohio Constitution’s right-to-remedy, right-to-jury, or equal-protection provisions. View "Stolz v. J & B Steel Erectors, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a general contractor’s commercial general liability (CGL) policy that is nearly identical to the one considered in Westfield Insurance Co. v. Custom Agri Systems, Inc., 979 N.E.2d 269 (Ohio 2012), covers claims for property damage caused by a subcontractor’s faulty work. The Supreme Court resolved the issue by applying the holding of Custom Agri which provides that property damage caused by a subcontractor’s faulty work is not an “occurrence” under a CGL policy because it cannot be deemed fortuitous. The Court then reversed the judgment of the court of appeals, which reversed the trial court’s conclusion that the insurer in this case had no duty to defend the CGL policy owner, a general contractor. The Supreme Court held that the insurer was not required to defend the insured against suit by the property owner or indemnify the insured against any damage caused by the insured’s contractor. View "Ohio Northern University v. Charles Construction Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2005, Roark, a Sunesis laborer, was working alone at the bottom of a trench, when the trench collapsed, killing him. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation awarded Roark’s dependent children benefits. The dependents sought an additional award based on violations of specific safety requirements for sloping, shoring, and bracing. A hearing officer concluded that Roark’s death was the result of Sunesis’s failure to properly support the trench and ordered Sunesis to pay an additional award based on violations of Ohio Adm.Code 4123:1-3-13. On remand, a hearing officer issued factual findings based on photographs and testimony: Three sides of the trench were adequately shored. The fourth wall, which caved in on Roark, consisted of soil that Sunesis attempted to shore up by sloping the wall and inserting a steel plate above the slope. The hearing officer found no evidence that Roark disregarded instructions to work inside a large underground pipe. On rehearing, in 2012, a hearing officer identified the soil involved as soft material, Class C soil with groundwater, stating that Code Table 13-1 addresses the approximate angle of repose for sloping: The presence of groundwater requires special treatment. The commission, the Tenth District, and the Supreme Court of Ohio upheld the award. It was within the commission’s discretion to conclude that the trench was not properly shored or braced, exposing employees to the danger of moving ground and that failure to comply with the regulations proximately caused Roark’s death. View "Sunesis Construction Co. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio" on Justia Law

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Daniel Stolz worked for a subcontractor on a construction project when he was injured in an accident on the job site. Prior to the accident, Messer had obtained authority from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to act as the self-insuring employer on the project, which gave Messer responsibility for providing workers’ compensation coverage for its own employees as well as the employees of enrolled subcontractors on the project. Stolz brought negligence claims against Messer Construction, the general contractor, and several subcontractors. A federal district court granted summary judgment to Messer as the self-insuring employer but denied summary judgment to the subcontractors, concluding that an enrolled subcontractor on a self-insured construction project is immune from claims made by its own employees but not from those made by employees of other enrolled subcontractors. The federal court then certified a question of state law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that subcontractors enrolled in a self-insured construction project plan are immune from tort claims for workplace injuries from employees of other enrolled subcontractors on the same project. View "Stolz v. J & B Steel Erectors, Inc." on Justia Law