Ohio Supreme Court Orders Baltimore Ravens To Pay Fine - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Ohio Supreme Court Orders Baltimore Ravens To Pay Fine

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered the Baltimore Ravens to pay a $50,000 fine on behalf of five players who said the team failed to pay them workers' comp benefits when it was still in Cleveland.

The court ruled 6-1 Wednesday that the Ravens must pay the fine levied against it more than three years ago by an Ohio workers' compensation review board.

The case involved complaints over workers' comp benefits filed by five players for the team when it was still playing in Ohio as the Cleveland Browns. The team moved to Baltimore after the 1995 NFL season.

At issue was the independence of a state review board that evaluates complaints about workers' comp benefits involving companies that are self-insured.

Former Browns' players Ricky Bolden, Paul Farren, Mark Harper, Lee Jones and Stacey Hairston complained to the Bureau of Workers' Compensation that the team failed to pay benefits to them while they were injured.

The Ohio Industrial Commission agreed and ordered the Ravens to pay the benefits, said Irwin Dinn, a lawyer representing the Ravens. The Industrial Commission handles all workers' comp disputes.

The team contends this amounted to a double payment of benefits, Dinn said. He said the five athletes had already been paid their regular salary while injured and unable to play, a procedure that amounts to a workers' comp benefit for professional athletes, Dinn said.

In March 1999, the players' complaint was upheld by the bureau's Self-Insuring Employers Evaluation Board.

The board ruled that the Ravens' initial refusal to pay the benefits amounted to "blatant and defiant behavior" and ordered a $50,000 fine.

The Ravens appealed the fine to a Franklin County judge in Columbus. The evaluation board argued that the judge didn't have jurisdiction under state law because the board is part of the administrative structure of the workers' comp bureau, and not an independent state agency.

The Supreme Court agreed.

The board "is not self-sustaining or self-governing," said Justice Alice Robie Resnick, writing for the majority. "It is not charged with administering or implementing any legislation, does not have its own staff or agenda, and does not promulgate any rules or regulations."

Justice Deborah Cook dissented. She said her colleagues misread the law, which she said does define the review board as a separate state agency.

The decision left the $50,000 fine in place. Dinn said he will work with the evaluation board to try to resolve the matter.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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