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Monday, June 20, 2011

Determining the “future income” of a disabled public officer or employee


Determining the “future income” of a disabled public officer or employee
Iazzetti v City of New York, 93 NY2d 808

The Court of Appeals' ruling in the Iazzetti case is of importance to public employees, and, in the case of death, their survivors, who are injured while performing their duties.

Mario Iazzetti, an employee of the New York City Department of Sanitation, was injured on the job and was awarded accidental disability retirement benefits - a pension equal to 3/4 of his last annual salary.

Iazzetti and his wife, however, sued the City claiming it was responsible for his disability. A jury awarded them $200,000 in past lost earnings and benefits, $25,000 in past pain and suffering, $750,000 in future lost earnings and benefits, $250,000 in future lost pension, and $25,000 in future pain and suffering. The jury apportioned 80 percent of the responsibility for the accident to the City and 20 percent to Iazzetti.

The City moved to have the award for past and future loss of earnings and for “future lost pension” modified. A State Supreme Court justice ruled that Section 4545(b) of the Civil Practice Law and Rules [CPLR] allowed the City to offset the jury's award for past loss of earnings by the amount Iazzetti had received from his accident disability retirement pension but said the jury's award for future losses could not be similarly reduced. The basis for the ruling: CPLR 4545(b) does not allow defendants to offset future losses.

The City appealed, contending that Section 4545(c) of the CPLR, rather than 4545(b) applied in Iazzetti's case. The Appellate Division agreed with the city. This resulted in a significant difference to the Iazzetties since unlike subdivision (b), subdivision (c) allows the employer to offset both past and future economic losses in such situations. Iazzetti asked the Court of Appeals to review the Appellate Division's ruling.

After a highly technical analysis of the impact of an amendment to the CPLR on its exiting provisions, the Court of Appeals determined that CPLR Section 4545(b) had not been repealed by implication when the Legislature amended the CPLR by adding a new subdivision (c) to Section 4545 and reversed. It ruled that “the Appellate Division erred in applying CPLR 4545(c) to reduce [Iazzetti's] jury verdict for future lost earnings.”

The significance of this ruling: Court and jury awards for future economic losses are permitted where the public employer is held liable, in whole or in part, for the injury or death of its employee.

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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