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Verizon entitled to offset comp payment by pension paid to disabled worker: Court


PORTLAND, Maine–Verizon Communications Inc. has the right to “offset” a permanently disabled employee's workers compensation benefits by the amount of pension he receives, the Maine Supreme Court has ruled.

The case of John Mitton vs. Verizon et al. involves 800 weeks of permanent total incapacity benefits paid to Mr. Mitton as a result of a 1995 work-related stroke that caused him to lose a leg and an arm.

At the time, Mr. Mitton worked for NYNEX Corp., a Verizon predecessor.

He received the workers comp benefits under a Maine law that says—in work-related cases of losing a leg and arm—“it is conclusively presumed for 800 weeks from the date of injury that the injury resulted in permanent total incapacity and that the employee is unable to perform full-time remunerative work in the ordinary competitive labor market in the state.”

The 800 weeks concluded in 2010. While “it is undisputed that Mitton remains totally incapacitated from work,” Verizon then filed a petition to determine whether it is entitled to “offset rights” for the pension it has been paying to Mr. Mitton.

A workers comp hearing officer agreed Verizon was entitled to the offset. Mr. Mitton filed a motion for additional findings of fact and conclusions of law, but the hearing officer denied his request. Mr. Mitton then appealed to Maine's Supreme Court.

Mr. Mitton argued that he remained entitled to the incapacity benefits without an offset even after the 800-week period because of the loss of an arm and leg. He also argued that Verizon has the burden of proving that his circumstances had changed.

But in a March 22 ruling, the Maine Supreme Court upheld the hearing officer’s finding. The high court ruled that Mr. Mitton’s benefits were not subject to an offset during the 800-week period. However, in accordance with state law, Mr. Mitton’s benefits should be reduced by the amount of pension he was paid after the 800-week period was concluded, the court said.