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State ex rel. Cugini v. The Timken Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 25, 2019

State ex rel. Raymond Cugini, Relator,
v.
The Timken Company et al., Respondents.

         IN MANDAMUS ON OBJECTION TO THE MAGISTRATE'S DECISION

         On brief:

          Regas & Haag, Ltd, and Matthew R. Carona, for relator.

         On brief:

          Morrow & Meyer, LLC, Robert C. Meyer, and Mary E. Ulm, Kristina M. Harless for respondent The Timken Company.

         On brief:

          Dave Yost, Attorney General, and Andrew J. Alatis, for respondent Industrial Commission of Ohio.

          DECISION

          SADLER, J.

         {¶ 1} Relator, Raymond Cugini, commenced this original action requesting a writ of mandamus ordering respondent Industrial Commission of Ohio ("commission") to vacate its order denying him temporary total disability ("TTD") compensation based on a finding that relator voluntarily retired and removed himself from the workforce, and ordering the commission to find that he remained eligible for TTD compensation.

         {¶ 2} Pursuant to Civ.R. 53 and Loc.R. 13(M) of the Tenth District Court of Appeals, this matter was referred to a magistrate who issued the appended decision, including findings of fact and conclusions of law. The magistrate determined that because there is some evidence in the record on which the commission relied to find relator's retirement was unrelated to the allowed conditions in his claim, relator did not demonstrate the commission abused its discretion in denying his request for TTD compensation. As a result, the magistrate recommended that this court deny the requested writ of mandamus. For the following reasons, we overrule the objection and deny the requested writ.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶ 3} None of the parties have filed objections to the magistrate's findings of fact, and following an independent review of the record, we adopt those findings as our own. As more fully set forth in the magistrate's decision, relator sustained a work-related injury on November 30, 2014, and received TTD compensation for his allowed claims until they were terminated as of July 20, 2016 based on a finding that those allowed conditions had reached maximum medical improvement. The commission eventually allowed relator's claim based on additional conditions. Relator then retired from his employment with respondent on December 31, 2016 after more than 40 years of service.

         {¶ 4} On October 13, 2017, relator filed a motion for TTD compensation beginning July 20, 2016 and continuing onward from that date. The commission granted the request for TTD compensation from July 20 through December 30, 2016, but found relator was not entitled to TTD compensation beyond that time period because he voluntarily retired effective December 31, 2016.

         {¶ 5} On April 11, 2018, relator filed a mandamus complaint with this court, contending that he has a clear right to TTD compensation beyond December 31, 2016, and the commission has a clear legal duty to grant him the award of TTD compensation. In his brief to the magistrate, relator argued the commission failed to properly analyze the timing and character of his retirement, abused its discretion in its finding that relator voluntarily retired and removed himself from the workforce effective December 31, 2016, and decided to deny him TTD compensation without some evidence to support its decision.

         {¶ 6} The magistrate determined that relator failed to demonstrate the commission abused its discretion when it denied his request for TTD compensation beyond December 30, 2016 based on the finding that relator had retired from his employer for reasons unrelated to the allowed conditions in his claim. The magistrate first considered relator's argument that, because he was disabled at the time he retired from his employer, he remained eligible for TTD compensation. The magistrate found the argument failed under State ex rel. Klein v. Precision Excavating & Grading, Co., 155 Ohio St.3d 78, 2018-Ohio-3890, which overruled the cases relator cited and reasserted the fundamental tenet of eligibility for TTD compensation that the industrial injury caused the worker's loss of earnings.

         {¶ 7} The magistrate next discussed relator's testimony that he took a length of service retirement because of the pay and benefits he would receive on retirement, and the fact that relator had neither looked for employment nor worked since the date of injury. The magistrate also noted relator's receipt of social security disability benefits since October 2016, which he did not disclose in applying for TTD compensation. Furthermore, the magistrate acknowledged that relator pointed to other testimony wherein relator stated that he would go back to work if he was able to, but found the determination of disputed factual situations to be within the jurisdiction of the commission, and that, in reviewing whether a writ of mandamus should issue, it is immaterial whether other evidence supporting relator's view exists in the record, provided "some evidence" supports the commission's finding. (Mag.'s Decision at ¶ 30.) Ultimately, finding some evidence supported the commission's decision in this case, the magistrate recommended that the court deny the writ.

         II. OBJECTION

         {¶ 8} Relator sets forth the following objection:

Cugini objects to the Magistrate's finding that there is some evidence in the record on which the Commission relied to find Relator's retirement was unrelated to ...

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