Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage
Administrative Appeal from the Portage County Court of Common
Pleas, Case No. 2015 CV 01018.
Jennifer L Lawther, Daniel A. Kirschner, and Corey J. Kuzma,
Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A., 27730 Euclid
Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44132 (For Appellant).
DeWine, Ohio Attorney General, State Office Tower, 30 East
Broad Street, 16th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215, and Jeffrey B.
Duber, Assistant Attorney General, State Office Building,
11th Floor, 615 West Superior Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113
V. GRENDELL, J.
Appellant, Lisa Centric, appeals from the judgment of the
Portage County Court of Common Pleas, granting the appellee,
the Administrator of the Bureau of Workers'
Compensation's, Motion for Summary Judgment, entering
judgment in favor of the defendants as a matter of law, and
finding that Centric was not entitled to workers'
compensation death benefits. The issue to be determined by
this court is whether a court of common pleas has
jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the Industrial
Commission's decision on the claimant's status as a
dependent spouse for the purposes of awarding death benefits
under R.C. 4123.59. For the following reasons, we affirm the
decision of the lower court.
Centric and her four children, Michael, Robert, Alexandria,
and Victoria Polichena, filed a claim for workers'
compensation death benefits following the death of the
children's father and Centric's alleged common law
spouse, Leonard Polichena. Polichena died following an
accident in which he injured his head while employed by
Gano's Auto Clinic. An award of benefits was allowed by
the District Hearing Officerbut was modified by a Staff
Hearing Officer to allow the claim for death benefits for
three of the children, but to deny benefits to Michael and
Centric. In pertinent part, the Staff Hearing Officer's
October 22, 2015 Order stated that Centric was not presumed
"dependent" upon Polichena at the time of his death
"as there is no evidence contained within the record to
establish that the two were married and living together at
[that] time." An appeal of the Staff Hearing
Officer's decision was refused by the Industrial
Commission on November 4, 2015.
On December 17, 2015, Centric and Victoria, Alexandria, and
Robert Polichena filed a Notice of Appeal and Petition and
Complaint on Appeal in the Portage County Court of Common
Pleas. The Complaint stated that they were each
"entitled to receive benefits provided by the
Workers' Compensation Act of Ohio for all of Leonard
Polichena's injuries." It also alleged that Centric
was "married to Leonard Polichena at the time of his
death and fully dependent upon him for support."
The Administrator of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation
filed an Answer on January 26, 2016.
On May 17, 2017, the Administrator filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment. It argued that the evidence showed that the
presumption of dependency should not apply to Centric, given
that she and Polichena had not been together for a number of
years. Attached to the Motion for Summary Judgment was
Pursuant to Centric's testimony, she and Polichena began
living together in 1988, and had four children. While they
never officially married, she used Polichena's last name,
the two would sometimes refer to each other as "husband
and wife, " and held joint bank accounts. Following some
relationship problems, and an incident where Polichena kicked
their son after the son had fallen and broken his arm, she
and the children moved out. Since that incident in 2004,
Centric and Polichena lived apart. Centric had her own bank
accounts and filed individual tax returns. Various documents
filed or signed by Centric reflected that she was single
and/or that Polichena had no spouse.
Centric filed a Brief in Opposition on May 31, 2017, arguing
that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to the
issue of her dependency. The Administrator filed a June 6,
The trial court issued a Judgment Entry on June 21, 2017,
granting the Administrator's Motion for Summary Judgment,
finding Centric was not entitled to workers' compensation
death benefits and that the defendants were entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
Centric timely appeals and raises the following assignment of
"The Trial Court erred in granting Appellee Bureau of
Workers' Compensation's Motion ...