A California appeals court has overturned a lower court decision that denied a municipality’s request to reduce an award to an injured worker due to a lien stemming from outstanding workers’ compensation payments.
The California Court of Appeal, 5th District, on Thursday found error in a trial judge’s decision to deny a post-verdict judgment to the city of Firebaugh in a case involving an injured employee suing the city and Hiller Aircraft Corp.
The plaintiff, Daquan Jones, won a special verdict in May 2021 that found the city and Hiller liable for $5.74 million in economic damages and the city individually liable for $750,000 in non-economic damages.
Four days before the trial began, QBE Americas Inc. paid $1.25 million in workers’ comp claims on behalf of Mr. Jones. The City subsequently sought to vacate the trial judgment awarded to Mr. Jones is reduced based on the sum of the compensation payments.
A trial judge denied the city’s motion, finding that it failed to meet its burden of showing evidence of the amount of the lien it proposed to use to reduce the judgment amount, as the total amount of the lien is unknown because Mr. Jones continues to incur medical expenses and the tort claim remains open.
In reversing the order, the appeals court said that while the judge can deny the city’s motion to reduce the sentence, it applied the wrong legal standard when it previously did so.