CLEVELAND -- Thousands of Ohio companies and businesses could be one step closer to splitting hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

An Appeals Court has upheld a ruling that the Bureau charged thousands of employers excessive insurance premiums.

The 8th District Court of Appeals blasted the agency for charging inflated rates to employers not participating in BWC's group rating plan.

In its opening paragraph of the ruling, the panel said, "Reduced to it's irreducible essence, this appeal is about a cabal of Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation bureaucrats and lobbyists for group sponsors who rigged workers' compensation premium rates for employers who participated in the BWC's group-rating plan ... it was 'heads we win,' and for employers who did not participate in the group-rating plan, it was 'tails you lose,'

A spokesperson for the state agency said it was reviewing and deciding the next legal step.

Lawyer Stuart Garson, whose firm represented non-member companies, "called it "a huge victory" for most Ohio businesses.

The extra costs of higher premiums hurt many businesses bottom lines, forcing layoffs at some operations.

The court ruling is the latest milestone in a long legal battle that began with the co-owner of Corky and Lenny's restaurant and other business owners charging the bureau forced them to pay exorbitant premiums to offset lower rates charged to businesses that were in groups formed to get unfair discounts.

Judge Richard McMonagle decided in December 2012 that employers deserved to be compensated with refunds. He put the figure at $859 million for 264,000 companies.

The Appeals Court ruled McMonagle must issue an itemized accounting of how much specific companies will get.

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