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Jury award in car crash case reduced by over $230K

Funds offset by insurance payments

A state appeals court has reduced an award by more than $230,000 in a lawsuit seeking damages for injuries suffered in a car accident.

Plaintiff Arlisa Mays was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident on Sept. 30, 2014, which forced her to stop working as an engineering technician.

In August 2015 she applied for New York State Disability Retirement Benefits and sued the person responsible for the crash, seeking damages for past and future pain and suffering and lost wages.

A state Supreme Court jury in Rochester awarded Mays $928,000, comprised of $200,000 for past pain and suffering, nothing for future pain and suffering, $260,000 for past lost wages, and $468,000 for future lost wages.

Both sides agreed that the past and future lost wage awards should be reduced by $241,816 because that is the amount they will be offset by Social Security and disability benefits.

But the defense also claimed that disability retirement benefits and personal injury protection payments should offset another $275,456.

In April 2021, state Supreme Court Justice Ann Marie Taddeo issued a decision denying the defendant’s argument that the award should be reduced.

A judge can reduce a jury award for lost earnings when the earnings will be replaced from another source.

The defense argued that the portion of the award for past and future lost earnings was replaced by disability retirement benefits. Mays’ attorney argued that the benefits are not replacing wages, but a pension.

“She asserts that since lost pension benefits were neither asked for or awarded at trial, they are not subject to a collateral source reduction,” Taddeo wrote.

Taddeo ruled that collateral source payments offset a jury award only when the collateral source payments are for a “particular category of loss that duplicates or corresponds to the category of loss for which damages are awarded.”

“Even though plaintiff was awarded damages for loss of future wages, she was not specifically awarded damages for future lost pension benefits,” Taddeo wrote.

Therefore, Taddeo denied the defendant’s request to reduce the award by $275,456.

The defendant appealed and, in a recent decision, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Fourth Department, reversed Taddeo’s ruling and reduced the jury award by $230,029.12.

“We agree with defendants that plaintiff’s Retirement and Social Security Law … disability retirement benefits replace the income (she) would have earned if she did not have to retire early due to her . . . disability-causing injury,” the Fourth Department wrote.

“Supreme Court thus erred in denying defendants’ motion insofar as it sought to reduce the award for lost wages by the $224,151 in disability retirement benefits that plaintiff will receive during the period for which such damages were awarded,” the panel wrote.

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