A 35-year-old man who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a one-car crash on an icy road in 2013 has settled his workers’ compensation claim with the city of Middletown for $2 million.
Attorneys for public works department truck driver Jairo Solis and the city negotiated for several years before agreeing on the settlement April 2. The two sides differed strongly on the “coming and going rule” within the workers’ compensation guidelines, which stalled negotiations several times.
The rule says the workers’ compensation program does not cover city employees, except police officers and firefighters, who sustain injuries going to or from work. But Solis’ Middletown-based attorney Meghan Woods argued her client fell under an exception to the rule. The emergency-call exception says that if an employee is called into work to respond to an emergency from their employer, then that qualifies under the workers’ compensation plan.
Solis was called into work for an emergency related to snow and ice on the roads, but the city argued he didn’t have to accept the request to come in, as it was not mandatory.
The Connecticut Appellate Court was slated to hear oral arguments in the case next month. But Woods, a partner with Vargas Chapman Woods, said she believed the city agreed to the $2 million settlement because it realized it would have lost in court.
“They acknowledged we had a very high level of prevailing at the appellate level,” Woods told the Connecticut Law Tribune Thursday.
Zachary Delaney of Glastonbury-based Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, represented Middletown. He did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Woods said the last offer the city made was for about $1.6 million. Even though Woods had asked for $3.69 million, she said she was satisfied with the ultimate settlement.
“I don’t feel we compromised anything,” she said.
Solis earned about $52,000 annually, Woods said.
Attorneys factored in indemnity by calculating how much Solis would have earned for the rest of his projected natural life. At $52,000 annually, they arrived at about $1.1 million. They estimated medical expenses of more than $900,000. In the end, they agreed on a $2 million lump-sum payment.
“He is getting the money upfront, rather than having to wait to get $600 a week for the rest of his life,” she said.
Woods said Solis, who is in a wheelchair but is not paralyzed, “is happy to be done with this.”
“It was six years ago and he is happy to be moving forward and on with his life,” she said.
Solis, a Middletown resident who lives with his parents, has movement impairment, speech difficulties and other lasting effects of the traumatic brain injury, his attorney said.
“He needs assistance with things like making meals and showering. He also can’t drive, but he is independent,” Woods said.
The money was disbursed to Solis this week, Woods said. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, a special-needs trust in Solis’ name will be set up with the funds.
Woods said, “That will allow him to better utilize that money.”