In a landmark ruling, a Cleveland judge stated that nearly $860 million is owned to thousands of Ohio employers after they were overcharged by the state's insurance program for injured workers.
Judge Richard McMonagle of Cuyahoga County ruled that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation has been overcharging more than 270,000 businesses throughout the state for more than a decade. It ended a long legal fight between the state and a collection of small business owners.
"We've spent years on this case and the BWC never denied that we were overcharged. Now the Court has ordered them to pay. Tens of thousands of businesses can now put those dollars back to work, creating and protecting Ohio jobs," Earl Stein, lead plaintiff in the case and small business owner, told WKYC.
"We constantly hear that the State wants to be more business friendly, yet when we were clearly wronged they refused to do the right thing. It's time the BWC remember that they work for us," he added.
But officials with the BWC have argued that while they do acknowledge overcharging local businesses in the state, it was not nearly as much as what has been claimed.
During a hearing to work out an exact figure, the Bureau's experts said that the overcharges were only about $400 million dollars.
"We believe the dollars we've collected have been spent appropriately and that all Ohio businesses have benefitted and continue to benefit from BWC programs and services," the BWC said in a statement.
But no matter the exact amount, local business owners just want to be reimbursed with the money they are rightly entitled to.
"The Court says we were damaged by nearly $860 million dollars. Last week I heard the Bureau's experts acknowledge $400 million in damages." Stein said. "My message to the Bureau – pay us the $400 million and we can fight over the other $460 million later."