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For immediate release: July 22, 2013

BWC files opening brief in San Allen appeal

Business, labor support BWC efforts to fight litigation on group rating

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation filed on Friday the opening brief in its appeal of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas' decision in San Allen, Inc. et al vs. Stephen Buehrer, Administrator, BWC. Separately, a broad coalition of business and labor associations has filed an Amicus brief, saying they believe the bureau acted within its legal authority in establishing rates for Ohio's group rating program.

"We continue to believe BWC acted within its authority in establishing rates and that the plaintiffs' claims are without merit," said Steve Buehrer, administrator/CEO of BWC. "The support we have received from business and labor is appreciated and shows us that we are right in fighting these allegations on behalf of Ohio's employers and injured workers."

Friday, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, NFIB and the AFL/CIO filed an Amicus brief in the 8th District Court of Appeals supporting the BWC's appeal of the San Allen case. The brief defends BWC's right to establish rates and calls subjecting rate-setting to judicial review a dangerous precedent. In addition, others in the business community commented today on whether those in the class were truly harmed, pointing out that class members received more in benefits than they paid and that many benefitted from group rating for at least part of the class period.

"While we not only believe the BWC had appropriate authority to set rates as it did, it is specious at best to somehow suggest that the class was overcharged when they had $1.26 in claims costs for every dollar of premium they paid," said George Haenszel, CEO of the Professional Independent Agents Association of Ohio, Inc.

"For employers to claim they were victims when many of them benefited from participating in that program is unfortunate and misleading," said Geoff Hetrick, President of The Ohio Restaurant Association.

Buehrer questioned the true intent of the class action suit. "BWC has worked diligently and successfully over the last few years to provide better care and service for all Ohio workers and employers," said Buehrer. "Yet we are forced to continue to defend against litigation that selectively benefits a subset of employers and their attorneys who are more interested in helping themselves to the State Insurance Fund than the stability of a system that protects Ohio's employers and injured workers."

Buehrer pointed out several recent benefits made possible by BWC's stability.

  • More than 200,000 employers are sharing $1 billion in rebates, each receiving 56 percent of their annual premium.
  • Rate reductions, including a recently approved 2.1-percent cut, are saving private employers an estimated $224 million since July 2011.
  • A series of 5-percent rate reductions have brought public-employer rates to their lowest point in more than 30 years.
  • Steps have been taken to make workplaces safer, including tripling annual safety grant funding to $15 million and increasing funding for Ohio's 80 safety councils.

He contrasted these benefits with the few benefits that would result if the plaintiffs succeed.

  • More than half of the 300,000 class members do not have an active workers' compensation policy, leaving an open question as to what will be done with their share of the monies.
  • Approximately 47,000 members of the class would receive less than $5 if the original decision stands.
  • Half of all class members would receive less than $200.
  • 44 percent of money would go to 1 percent of the class members.
  • While it is impossible to tell because no mention of fees has been made, it's likely that the largest recipient of money, by tens of millions of dollars, would be the plaintiffs' attorneys.

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