Voluntary retirement doesn't stop claim for ongoing disability benefits
Case name: General Motors Corp. v. Stewart, No. N11A-02-010 MMJ (Del. Super. Ct. 09/29/11).
Ruling: The Delaware Superior Court held that a worker was entitled to ongoing partial disability benefits.
What it means: In Delaware, a worker who voluntarily retires can still collect partial disability benefits stemming from a pre-retirement work-related injury if he does not intend to remove himself from the job market.
An assembly line worker for an automobile manufacturer sustained a low back injury after an iron pole fell and hit him on the back. The manufacturer acknowledged that the injury was compensable, and he was awarded benefits. The worker continued to experience pain. After 30 years of working for the company, the worker retired due to the pain from his injury. A human resources employee of the manufacturer said the worker voluntarily retired after accepting a special compensation package. The employee admitted that the worker's permanent sedentary restrictions prevented him from working for the manufacturer.
Within two weeks of retiring, he began looking for work at various businesses. He obtained full-time, seasonal work but was laid off. He continued searching for employment. Later, the worker sought additional compensation for ongoing partial disability. The Delaware Superior Court held that the worker was entitled to ongoing partial disability benefits.
The court found that the worker's retirement was voluntary but he was entitled to benefits because he did not intend to remove himself from the job market. His return to work demonstrated his intent. The court also found that the worker demonstrated a loss in earning capacity when he retired.
He was entitled to ongoing benefits because he demonstrated a good-faith effort to seek employment after he was laid off. His failure to obtain employment did not bar his claim. The court noted that the Industrial Accident Board's failure to address the worker's credibility regarding his job search was not fatal to his claim.
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December 1, 2011
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