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Saturday, December 14, 2013

New York State Trial Lawyers' Association on Auqui v Seven Thirty One Limited Partnership, et al.

Thanks to the efforts and support of a remarkable coalition of lawyers, labor and community groups, the Court of Appeals today  [Dec. 10, 2013] reversed its ruling in Auqui v. Seven Thirty One Limited Partnership, et al. It was a wise decision.  If the Court's original ruling had been allowed to stand, injured workers would have been unjustly denied the opportunity to seek justice in the courts while receiving Workers Compensation benefits.  
As many of you know, in the Auqui case the Court of Appeals had, for the first time, granted collateral estoppel effect to decisions of the workers’ compensation board in third-party actions regarding disability issues. The decision jeopardized the right to jury trial on those issues and would have a serious impact on the ability of injured workers to seek justice through the court system, while also undermining the workers’ compensation system.
Today’s unanimous ruling vacated the earlier decision, and held that a decision of the workers’ compensation board as to duration of disability could not be granted preclusive effect, holding that:
Given the realities of these distinct proceedings, the finder of fact in a third-party negligence action, in its attempt to ascertain the extent of plaintiff's total damages, should not be bound by the narrow findings of the Board regarding the duration of plaintiff's injury or his need for further medical care.
This critical decision will ensure that injured workers will continue to be able to hold responsible third-parties accountable and to have their day in court. A copy of the full decision is available here.
Special thanks for their commitment and foresight in fighting to obtain a rarely granted re-argument must go to Immediate Past President Michael Jaffe as well as appellate counsel for the plaintiff and Amicus Committee Chair Annette Hasapidis.
In addition, an unprecedented coalition of lawyers, labor and community organizations worked tirelessly over many months to achieve this remarkable victory.  For their tremendous dedication and efforts to ensure that workers’ rights are protected, we would particularly like to thank:
  • NYSTLA’s Amicus Committee;
  • New York State Bar Association;
  • AFL-CIO;
  • New York City Central Labor Council; 
  • Building and Construction Trades of Greater New York;
  • Injured Workers Bar Association;
  • Workers Injury Law and Policy Group;
  • New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health;
  • Make the Road New York;
  • New York Communities for Change;
  • Center for Popular Democracy;
  • The Black Institute; and
  • Citizen Action of New York.