Ralph Martin v. George C. Hall & Sons, Inc.
October 6, 2021
CategoriesPartial Incapacity Res Judicata Partial Incapacity Res Judicata
change of circumstances
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Ralph Martin v. George C. Hall & Sons (Decision 21-27, attached) - In 2013 Martin fractured his back at work and after treatment could no longer do his prior physical job. He regained sedentary to light work capacity, so the ALJ ordered partial incapacity benefits for the difference between Martin's pre-injury AWW and his imputed earning capacity based then on 40 hours x $8/hour.
Martin later asserted that weakness in his right leg from the 2013 injury caused him to fall and injure his right shoulder. In 2018 the ALJ agreed, found a sequela injury, and ordered closed-end total incapacity benefits for the shoulder, then ongoing partial benefits at the prior level. Hall argued that, since the prior decree, the state increased the minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 per hour, significantly changing Martin's economic circumstances. Hall urged the ALJ to impute Martin’s current partial earning capacity based on 40 hours x $12/hour and reduce Martin's partial incapacity benefits accordingly.
Martin argued that Hall presented no labor market survey or other evidence showing that suitable work was available to Martin in his community paying the $12 minimum wage, nor a change of any other factor relevant to his earning capacity. Judge Elwin agreed with Martin, and Hall appealed, arguing that as a matter of law the increased minimum wage was enough to require a reduction in employee's weekly incapacity benefits.
The Appellate Division panel for this appeal was en banc, consisting of all the other ALJs. They uniformly held that, where a prior partial incapacity benefits award was based on an earning capacity imputed without reference to the state minimum wage, a later statutory increase in the state minimum wage does not alone constitute a change in economic circumstances sufficient to reconsider the amount of the ongoing partial benefit.