Matter of Collins v. Dukes Plumbing & Sewer Serv., Inc. (Motion for leave to appeal granted on Nov. 17, 2010
75 A.D.3d 697 (3d Dep’t 2010)
These appeals concern the interplay between the recent amendments to Workers’ Compensation Law §§ 15(3)(w) and 27(2). Section 15(3)(w), as amended in 2007, capped the number of weeks for which a claimant could receive that subdivision’s nonscheduled permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits. The new cap on benefits applies only to accidents occurring after March 31, 2007. Section 27(2) was also amended in 2007 to require that any PPD award under WCL § 15(3)(w) made on or after July 1, 2007 must be paid into the aggregate trust fund (“ATF”).
In each of the cases on these appeals, each claimant’s injury was classified as a PPD and each claimant was awarded benefits under section 15(3)(w). These PPD awards were not capped because the claimants’ injuries all preceded the March 31, 2007 date applying to section 15(3)(w). The uncapped PPD awards were made after July 1, 2007 and, therefore, the private insurance carriers for the claimants’ employers were ordered to make a lump-sum payment of the present value of the awards into the ATF pursuant to the amended to section 27(2).
The Third Department disagreed with the carriers’ argument that they should not have been required to make lump-sum payments into the ATF because those injuries were sustained before the effective date to the amendment to WCL § 27(2). The Court also rejected the carriers’ argument that mandating lump-sum payments of the claimants’ uncapped PPD awards was improper because the actual amounts of their future benefits are unpredictable and there is no reliable way to calculate their present values. The Court rejected two of the carriers’ constitutional arguments that the amendment violated the Taking Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Contract Clause of the United State Constitution.
The Court of Appeals will likely focus its decision on the interplay between the two statutes. Depending on how the carriers’ brief the issues, the Court might also address the constitutional issues. The constitutional issues appear less noteworthy.