State ex rel. Boan v. Richardson

In State ex rel. Boan v. Richardson, 198 W. Va. 545, 482 S.E.2d 162 (1996), the Court considered W. Va. Code 23-4-23 (1994), which mandated a "reduction of permanent total disability benefits under workers' compensation by one-half of the sum of old age social security insurance payable to a claimant." 198 W. Va. at 547, 482 S.E.2d at 164. Thus, the statute at issue in Boan affected permanent total disability recipients who were also receiving social security retirement benefits. The Commissioner had argued in Boan that the primary purpose for making this reduction was to avoid duplication of benefits. First, the Court compared permanent total disability benefits with social security retirement benefits and refuted the state's argument that permanent total disability benefits were merely a wage replacement scheme: Permanent total disability awarded under workers' compensation is part of a comprehensive plan designed to rectify the results of an injury in the workplace. The payments to the claimants and other benefits are in lieu of such elements of damage in the common law tort system as lost wages, lost earning capacity, reimbursement of past and future medical expenses, past and present pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other factors. 198 W. Va. at 548, 482 S.E.2d at 165 . The Court continued by saying: "Social security old age insurance benefits, on the other hand, are retirement benefits earned by continued employment in the work force and the attainment of the age of sixty-two or sixty-five or older." 198 W. Va. at 549, 482 S.E.2d at 166. The Court concluded that, "our workers' compensation benefits for permanent total disability are more than simply a wage replacement system." 198 W. Va. at 550, 482 S.E.2d at 167. Because the Boan Court rejected the state's argument that the two programs duplicated one another, the Court held, in part, . .We conclude that the statute is defective in creating the classification of "old age social security recipient" and reducing benefits for those persons, and that such classification, as here applied, bears no reasonable relationship to a proper governmental purpose of avoiding duplication of benefits. . . . Id, at syl pt. 2.