Jones v. Mead Paper & NewPage
MSIGA & Sedgwick CMS
March 23, 2018
Multiple Injuries Modified Duty Retirement Presumption
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Ms. Jones worked at the Rumford paper mill for 40 years. She had sustained several work injuries and was transitioned to light duty work, first doing secretarial work and then testing paper, which required her to walk through the mill. After her doctor had recommended that she limit herself to sedentary work, she retired from active employment on 2013 and began receiving non-disability pension. At hearing Ms. Jones alleged that her supervisors ignored her restrictions and that she had retired in part because she could no longer walk on the cement floors. She filed petitions seeking ongoing wage loss benefits, but a §312 IME found she had a sedentary work capacity and could walk for short stretches.
Judge Elwin found that she had indeed suffered several work injuries and granted some of the petitions, but she declined to award Ms. Jones ongoing incapacity benefits because Ms. Jones was "actively employed at the time of her retirement and was receiving a non-disability pension from the employer," so she applied the §223 presumption of no loss of earnings from the injury, which Ms. Jones failed to rebut. Ms. Jones appealed, arguing that the §223 presumption should not apply because she could not "fulfill her duties," and her employer had "effectively forced her to retire."
The Appellate Division panel found that §223 does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary retirement, and even employees who are allegedly "forced into early retirement" may be subject to the presumption if they terminate "active employment." Ms. Jones also appealed Judge Elwin's failure to recuse herself, but the panel found no abuse of discretion.