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Marciano v. Jimenez

Supreme Court of Connecticut

December 22, 2016

JAMES MARCIANO
v.
DIEGO JIMENEZ ET AL.

          Argued October 20, 2016

          Karen L. Dowd, with whom was Brendon P. Lev-esque, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Christopher P. Kriesen, with whom, on the brief, was Kaelah M. Smith, for the appellees (defendants).

          Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald, Robinson and Vertefeuille, Js.

          OPINION

          VERTEFEUILLE, J.

         When a plaintiff receives an award of damages in a civil action for personal injuries, General Statutes § 52-225a[1] requires the trial court to reduce the award to reflect collateral source payments received by the plaintiff. Section 52-225a makes an exception to the required deduction, however, for collateral source payments for which a right of subrogation, or reimbursement, exists. The sole issue in this appeal is whether § 52-225a precludes the trial court from making any collateral source reduction, either in full or in part, when a right of subrogation exists. We conclude that it does.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the present appeal. The plaintiff, James Marciano, was injured in a motor vehicle accident and brought a personal injury action against the defendants, Diego Jiminez and Phoenix Limousine Service, LLC.[2]Following trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him $84, 283.67 in economic damages and $40, 000 in noneconomic damages, for a total of $124, 283.67. Subsequently, the defendants moved for a collateral source reduction to the award pursuant to § 52-225a. In their motion and during a hearing before the court, the defendants argued that the economic damages award should be reduced to account for the fact that the plaintiff had paid only $1941.49 toward his medical expenses, and his health insurance coverage had covered the remainder. The plaintiff's health insurance coverage was provided by a self-funded plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (plan). The plan was offered through his employer, United Parcel Service (UPS), and was managed by Aetna Insurance Company.

         In response to the defendants' motion for a collateral source reduction, the plaintiff objected[3] to any reduction on the ground that § 52-225a precludes a collateral source reduction when a right of subrogation exists, as it does in the present case. The plaintiff further claimed that even if a reduction was appropriate under § 52-225a, the defendants had not met their burden of proving that the expenses at issue were deductible collateral sources.[4] See footnote 1 of this opinion.

         The plaintiff provided the court with a copy of the plan[5] and an e-mail to the plaintiff's counsel from an agent on behalf of UPS establishing ‘‘[t]hat UPS will have a valid, enforceable lien or subrogation rights upon payment of the judgment . . . .'' Another letter from an agent handling the plan's liens further indicated that UPS would accept $6940.19 in full satisfaction of the right of subrogation in the event of a settlement of the case for $120, 000. The plaintiff further contended that if the court decided that a reduction was appropriate, the amount of the reduction should be offset by the cost to obtain the collateral source benefits, which was calculated to be $58, 042.43.[6]

         During the hearing on the defendants' motion for a collateral source reduction, the defendants argued that the plaintiff's reading of § 52-225a to prohibit any collateral source reduction when a right of subrogation exists is contrary to the purpose of the statute, which is to preclude plaintiffs from obtaining double recoveries. Contending that the letter established an agreement to accept $6940.19 and therefore ‘‘extinguished'' the right of subrogation, the defendants urged the court to order a collateral source reduction of $60, 653.75.[7]

         In response, the plaintiff argued that the letter merely indicated a willingness to accept a lesser amount than full reimbursement in the event of settlement and did not extinguish the right of subrogation. The plaintiff further contended that § 52-225a plainly provides that if any right of subrogation exists, as it does in the present case, no collateral source reduction may be made.

         In its memorandum of decision, the court ordered a collateral source reduction, which it calculated by subtracting the cost to secure the collateral source benefits-$58, 042.43-from the payments made to the plaintiff-$82, 342.18. This amounted to a collateral source reduction of $24, 299.75. To calculate the judgment amount, the court subtracted the collateral source reduction of $24, 299.75 from the verdict of $124, 283.67. The court then rendered judgment of $99, 983.92, plus costs, from which the plaintiff now appeals.[8] He claims that the trial court improperly ordered a collateral source reduction when there was a right of subrogation, in violation of § 52-225a.

         In order to address the plaintiff's claim, we must interpret and apply the provisions of § 52-225a. In considering this question of statutory construction, we apply plenary review. Jones v. Kramer, 267 Conn. 336, 343, 838 A.2d 170 (2004). Moreover, because we have previously determined that § 52-225a is in derogation of common law; see id., 345-49; it must be strictly construed and may not be ‘‘extended, modified, repealed or enlarged in its scope by the mechanics of [statutory] construction.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 348. Finally, it is well established that we interpret statutes in accordance with the plain meaning rule and will not consider extratextual evidence of the meaning of a statute unless the text is ambiguous or would yield an absurd or unworkable result. General Statutes § 1-2z.

         We start our analysis with the text of § 52-225a (a), which provides in relevant part that ‘‘[i]n any civil action . . . wherein liability is admitted or is determined by the trier of fact and damages are awarded to compensate the claimant, the court shall reduce the amount of such award which represents economic damages . . . except that there shall be no reduction ...


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