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Removal of "inconvenience" from the state disability is retroactive



The Vermont legislator's decision to change the old language for permanent disability from "incurable incurability or insanity" to "traumatic brain injury" was retroactive and concerns a former fire district worker who suffered significant skull fractures in a workplace case, the state Supreme Court ruled.

In West v. North Branch Fire District # 1 the Supreme Court overturned on Friday and revoked an employee compensation commissioner that the 2014 law change was not retroactive and that the worker did not. qualify for benefits because he did not meet the previous definition of suffering from "incurable incurability or insanity."

John West was working for the North Branch Fire District in Dover, Vermont, when he was seriously injured in a 20-foot fall. in March 201

3. He was transported to the hospital and treated for multiple skull fractures, seizure-like activity and bleeding along his temporal lobe.

2014, pr. Contrary to his request for a formal hearing on his disability, the Vermont legislature amended the permit code to define total and permanent disability as "an injury to the skull that results in severe traumatic brain injury causing permanent and severe cognitive, physical or psychiatric disability." Earlier law, adopted in 1978, defined it as "an injury to the skull that resulted in incurable incurability or insanity."

The legislator stated in an accompanying statement that the change was made to "replace offensive statutory terms with languages ​​that recognize persons as opposed to their disabilities" and that the changes in terminology should not be "interpreted as changing the substance or effect of existing law or justice. . "

North Branch claimed that the version of the law before the amendment was in force at. the time of Mr West's injury and that a doctor who conducted an independent medical examination in 2020 determined that his injury did not lead to "incurable incurability or insanity."

Mr West argued that the amendment was retroactive because the legislature's intention was not to change rights but to replace offensive language.

An employment compensation commissioner found for North Branch and said the legislature "unintentionally lly changed the content" of the law, and Mr. West appealed.

By reversing the Commissioner's decision and reconsidering the case, the Vermont Supreme Court considered the 2014 amendment retroactive was a "corrective change" and that the legislator "explicitly described the amendment as a clarification" of the previous language.

The Court also dismissed North Branch's argument that West is not completely and permanently disabled because he is "gainfully employed" and considers permanent invalidity benefits on the basis of physical disability – without gaining power – and that the actual dispute about his disability must be remanded for determination.


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