Appellate Division Rules That Section 25-a Applies to Death Claims Resulting from Claim Already Transferred to SFCC Prior to 1/1/14
On 5/4/17 the Appellate Division, Third Department decided Misquitta v. Getty Petroleum. This case holds that the Special Fund for Reopened Cases under WCL §25-a is liable for death claims resulting from injuries from a claim that had already been transferred to it before the January 1, 2014 cutoff date for §25-a transfers, even when the death claim itself was not made until after that date.
This case involved a 1985 injury established for a myocardial infarction with a permanent total disability classification. Liability for the claim transferred to the Special Funds Conservation Committee (SFCC) under WCL §25-a in 2000. The claimant died due to coronary artery disease on May 2, 2014 and his wife brought a claim for death benefits against the Special Funds. The SFCC argued it was not responsible for the death claim because it was filed after the January 1, 2014 §25-a cutoff. The employer and original carrier were brought into the litigation but they argued that the SFCC was responsible for any liability on the death claim based on the 2000 §25-a transfer. The WCLJ found in the employer and original carrier’s favor and a Board Panel affirmed on appeal. Special Funds appealed to the Appellate Division, Third Department which affirmed, holding Special Funds liable for the death claim regardless of its date of filing, because Special Funds was already the liable carrier for the underlying workers’ compensation claim based on the 2000 §25-a transfer.
The employer and original workers’ compensation carrier also argued that the January 1, 2014 cutoff for §25-a transfers was unconstitutional based on the American Economy Insurance Company v. State of New York case. 139 A.D.3d 138 (1st Dep't 2016). That decision is currently pending on appeal to the New York State’s highest appellate court, the Court of Appeals. The Appellate Division did not address the merits of the American Economy issue because it ruled in favor of the employer and original carrier based on different legal grounds.
Misquitta establishes that the Special Fund will be liable for a compensable death claim regardless of the date of filing if liability for the original workers’ compensation claim which led to the death transferred to the Fund under §25-a before the January 1, 2014 cutoff date.