Medina County Courthouse

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Medina Man Loses Workers' Compensation Case

On April 1, 2007, Keith Garnes of Spencer Lake Road in Medina, Ohio was driving a truck for a company called Lucas Clark Trucking. Lucas Clark Trucking is a company located in West Salem, Ohio.

His job was to drive pallets of shingles from a warehouse at the Owens Corning plant in Medina, Ohio to another location at the plant. He was driving an 18 wheel truck and was paid by the load. He had been working for Lucas Clark Trucking for less than a week. On April 1, 2007, while at work, his ankle was run over by a tow motor operated by an employee of Lucas Clark Trucking.

That accident started a chain of events that led to a two day jury trial in Judge Kimbler's courtroom on January 4 and 5, 2010. While both Mr. Garnes and Lucas Clark Trucking agreed that Mr. Garnes was operating one of the company's trucks, they disagreed about his status on the day of the accident.

Mr. Garnes argued that he was an employee of the trucking company and therefore eligible to collect Workers' Compensation benefits. The company argued that he was an independent contractor and therefore the company did not have to cover him under Ohio's Workers' Compensation law. Complicating the case was the fact that the trucking company, which only had about three drivers, did not cover them under the Ohio's compensation program.

Under Ohio law, the job of the jury in such a case is to determine whether or not the person claiming coverage is entitled to participate in the Ohio program. The worker has the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is entitled to participate.

In the Garnes case, the jury determined that he was not entitled to participate. In reaching that decision, the jury had to consider 28 factors that Ohio law uses to determine whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor. Although Judge Kimbler has had other workers' compensation trials, this was the first one in which the issue of employee versus independent contractor had to be determined by a jury.

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