Thursday, February 14, 2013

Plaintiff's Future Damages Claim Limited by Workers' Comp Decision

Disclaimer: This is a MLN case
In Auqui v. Seven Thirty One Limited Partnership, the defendants moved to preclude the plaintiff from claiming future damages in a personal injury action based on a finding by the Workers' Compensation Board that the plaintiff had no further disability after January 24, 2006 and no need for further medical treatment.  The Supreme Court granted the motion, but the First Department reversed finding that the issue of further causally related disability presented a mixed question of law and fact that could not be given collateral estoppel effect.  The Court of Appeals has now reversed and granted the defendants' motion. 
According to the Court, factual determinations made by quasi-judicial agencies, such as the Workers' Compensation Board, are entitled to preclusive effect in subsequent proceedings.  Here, "[t]he issue of continuing benefits before the administrative agency necessarily turned upon whether Jose Verdugo had an ongoing disability after a certain date, which is a question of fact, as distinguished from a legal conclusion and a conclusion of mixed law and fact."  The Court further found that the plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the Workers' Compensation proceedings.  He was represented by counsel, submitted medical reports, presented expert testimony, and cross-examined the defendants' experts.  As such the Court held that the plaintiff should be precluded at trial from arguing the duration of his injury as it relates to future lost earnings and future medical expenses.  Finally, the Court held that the plaintiff's attempt to use a subsequent guardianship order to raise a question of fact as to ongoing disability should fail because the issue of the plaintiff's incapacity was not opposed at the guardianship proceeding. 
Judge Pigott issued a dissent in which he argued that the issue of the plaintiff's ongoing disability was a mixed question of law and fact.  As a mixed question of law and fact, he would not have given it preclusive effect.

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