Saturday, August 18, 2001

State must pay guard's workers' compensation




The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A guard held hostage during a 1993 prison riot in southern Ohio should receive workers' compensation from the state, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled in a case that could influence whether other guards get similar benefits.

        The state must pay Darrold R. Clark Jr. about $4,000, which covers more than 12 weeks' worth of benefits, the court ruled Wednesday in a 6-1 decision. Justice Deborah Cook dissented, saying that Mr. Clark didn't lose any pay during the time he was recovering.

        Nine inmates and a guard were killed during the 11-day riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

        The state had refused to pay Mr. Clark workers' compensation because he also collected hostage-leave pay for that period.

        After the riot, Mr. Clark — then 24 — underwent two heart surgeries. He temporarily returned to work in 1994 to protect his medical insurance coverage but left soon after.

        The Industrial Commission of Ohio and a Franklin County magistrate had ruled Mr. Clark should not receive workers' compensation in addition to hostage-leave pay guaranteed in his union contract.

        But Justice Andrew Douglas, writing for the majority, said if the state is allowed to deny benefits to Mr. Clark because he received hostage-leave pay, “we would circumvent the negotiated provision of the collective bargaining agreement that entitles Clark to hostage leave.”

        At least eight other guards held hostage during the riot could get similar benefits, which would total less than $40,000, said Phillip J. Fulton, Mr. Clark's attorney. He said their legal expenses easily surpass that amount.

        In 1997, the state avoided a trial by agreeing to pay nearly $1.8 million to Mr. Clark and 12 other prison guards who were taken hostage or injured during the riot.

       



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