Estate of deceased worker not entitled to lump sum award: New York HC

Soni Satti

New York’s High Court ruled that the estate of a dead injured worker with no dependents who died from circumstances unrelated to his work accident is only entitled to the lifetime disability benefits he may have received while alive, plus fair funeral costs. In a 6-1 ratio decision, the Court of Appeals dismissed the estate of Norman Youngjohn’s claim that 2009 amendments to the state Workers’ Compensation Statute forced Berry Plastics Corp. to pay half of Youngjohn’s schedule loss of use payment — worth $206,352.46 — in one lump sum.

Affirming the decision by the Appellate Division, the court stated, “If the legislature intends for a claimant’s estate to recover the full value of an SLU award under the circumstances presented here, the Workers’ Compensation Law must be amended to so provide,”

Youngjohn stumbled and fell in the parking lot of Berry Plastics in December 2014, injuring his right arm and left elbow. He obtained temporary disability benefits after making a workers’ compensation lawsuit. He informed the Workers’ Compensation Board of his permanent injury in September 2016 and filed for permanent temporary disability coverage.

Before his lawsuit was settled, Youngjohn died of a heart attack in March 2017. He didn’t have a living spouse or dependents, but he did have two adult children.

According to the estate and Berry Plastics’ insurer Youngjohn had a 55 percent schedule loss of use in his left arm and a 45 percent schedule loss of use in his right arm, for 23 weeks of “prolonged recovery.” Which contributed to 335.8 weeks of benefits in total.