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Courts Will Defer To the Decisions of Retirement Boards So Long As There Is “Some Evidence” To Support Retirement Board Decisions

In the cases of State ex rel. Seabolt v. State Hwy. Patrol Retirement Sys., Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-1594, and State ex rel. Sales v. Ohio Pub. Emps. Retirement Bd., Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-1568, the Ohio Supreme Court held that Ohio’s courts will defer to the decisions of retirement boards so long as there is “some evidence” to support the decisions of the retirement boards.

In State ex rel. Seabolt, the State Highway Patrol Retirement System (“HPRS”) determined that a state highway patrolman was not permanently disabled “in the line of duty” and, therefore, was only entitled to a lower retirement payment. While the patrolman presented evidence from several doctors suggesting that the patrolman’s disability resulted “in the line of duty,” the HPRS refused to reverse its decision. The Supreme Court deferred to the HPRS’s decision and held that “the presence of contrary evidence is immaterial, so long as the ‘some evidence’ standard has been met.” Seabolt at ¶ 15.

To read the State ex rel. Seabolt case, click here.

In State ex rel. Sales, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (“OPERS”) considered an entirely separate question of law but applied the same standard as in State ex rel. Seabolt. Specifically, the OPERS considered whether a psychiatrist who was contracted to provide psychiatric services to inmates at a public prison was an independent contractor. OPERS ultimately decided the psychiatrist was an independent contractor. While the psychiatrist presented some evidence that an employer-employee relationship existed, the Supreme Court again deferred to the OPERS decision and held that the “‘some evidence’ standard we employ recognizes that ‘[t]he determination of disputed facts and the weighing of evidence are exclusively within the jurisdiction and authority of the’ relevant agency.” Sales at ¶ 21.

To read the State ex rel. Sales case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.


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