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A former Major League Baseball umpire does not have the right to continue receiving workers compensation benefits after settling a medical malpractice lawsuit, a New York appeals court said.
Mark Hirschbeck, a former umpire in the big leagues for more than 15 years, sustained a work-related injury to his right hip in 2002 and was awarded workers comp benefits. He underwent hip replacement surgery, but was left permanently disabled following complications and additional surgeries and forced into retirement in 2003.
Mr. Hirschbeck sued the maker of his artificial hip alleging medical malpractice and products liability claims and received a $3.2 million settlement in 2011, according to court documents.
After the settlement, New York-based Major League Baseball's workers comp insurer suspended his benefits, as it claimed it had reserved its rights to a future offset from the umpire's settlement as part of a 2007 agreement. New York's Workers Compensation Board ruled in favor of the insurer in August 2013, and the 3rd Judicial Department of the State of New York Supreme Court Appellate Division upheld the finding Thursday.
An employer or insurer must “unambiguously and expressly” reserve its right to offset a claimant's future comp benefits with the proceeds from a third party-settlement or recovery, with this right reserved in the 2007 agreement, according to the decision.
“We are unpersuaded by claimant's contention that alleged deficiencies in that document render the carrier's reservation of future offsets ambiguous,” the court stated. “As the express language in the 2007 agreement notified claimant of the carrier's intent to seek credit against future awards of compensation benefits, we find that substantial evidence supports the board's decision and it will not be disturbed.”