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COA affirms disability benefit for injured officer

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Noting that the statute is ambiguous, the Indiana Court of Appeals found the Indiana Public Retirement System’s longtime use of a formula to calculate the disability benefits of a police officer shot while in the line of duty to be reasonable.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Jason A. Fishburn was shot in the head in July 2008 and as a result of his injury is unable to return to work. He filed for disability benefits in 2011 and the INPRS found his monthly disability benefit would be 79.85 percent of the monthly salary of a first-class patrol officer. This number is made up of the base monthly benefit for a Class 1 impairment of 45 percent, plus 34.85 percent in an additional monthly benefit.

At issue is the 34.85 percent determination. INPRS arrived at that figure using a formula it adopted in 1989. This additional benefit ranges from 10 percent to 45 percent and is based upon the degree of impairment. The formula to calculate the additional benefit percentage equaled the degree of impairment times .35, plus 10 percent.

Fishburn claimed that the statute doesn’t allow such a method and instead the additional benefit should be equal to the degree of impairment in the range of 10 to 45 percent. Since he has a 45-percent impairment, he claimed he is entitled to 45 percent in additional benefits, for a total of 90 percent of the salary.

The administrative law judge found I.C. 36-8-8-13.5(f) is ambiguous, and that application of the guidelines of statutory construction supports the agency’s interpretation. The trial court agreed and affirmed the ruling, as did the Court of Appeals.

“The formula-driven application used by INPRS results in a linear scale of additional benefits between 10% and 45% which, as a result, differentiates between those members with degrees of impairment from 0% to 100% as determined by the medical authority. The interpretation advanced by Fishburn would not differentiate between members with degrees of impairment of less than 10% or greater than 45%,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote in Jason A. Fishburn v. Indiana Public Retirement System, 49A02-1305-MI-391.

“If one of the legislature’s goals is for all members to receive additional benefits proportionate or commensurate with their respective degrees of impairment as determined by the medical authority, then INPRS’s interpretation of the statute and the result of using the method it established in 1989 accomplishes that goal.”

The judges also relied on the doctrine of legislative acquiescence to support their decision. INPRS established the method of calculating additional benefits under I.C. 36-8-8-13.5(f) in December 1989 and has applied that method since that time. The General Assembly has not clarified the manner INPRS calculates the additional benefit under Ind. Code § 36-8-8-13.5(f) or provided a different method of calculating the additional monthly benefit since then.


 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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