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Plaintiff Seeks Damages from the Police Department

A man commenced an action against the City of Utica, five of its police officers and its chief of police, to seek damages for injuries he had sustained a year earlier when he was still under the age of 21. In his complaint filed in the District Court, he claimed that the officers attacked him, wrongfully detained him, delayed medical treatment, and charged him with assorted violations of the Penal Law without cause. He settled his claim after having reached his 21st birthday.

Thereafter, the Department placed an encumbrance against the man’s settlement proceeds in accordance with the Social Services Law. A New York Injury Lawyer said the law permits a public welfare official to attach the personal injury recovery of a public assistance recipient in order to recover benefits paid on and after the date the injuries were sustained.

The man commenced a proceeding to annul the findings of the Department and to vacate the encumbrance it had placed against his personal injury proceeds. He claims that inasmuch as the action against the city arose prior to his reaching his legal age, the encumbrance could not be properly attach. The man, however, did not challenge the Department’s ability to recover the medical expenses that it had incurred on his behalf. The Supreme Court ordered the man to reimburse the Department of the portion of his recovery that represented his medical and hospital expenses, but disallowed the remainder of the encumbrance. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the portion of the settlement that represented damages for the man’s personal injuries was not subject to the encumbrance. The Appellate Division stated that while the Department may have a claim for public assistance payments made after the man reached his legal age, it could not seek recovery by placing an encumbrance against the settlement proceeds.

A Manhattan Personal Injury Lawyer said the provisions of the Social Services Law permit public welfare officials to seek recovery of public assistance benefits. It allows officials to bring an action or proceeding against a recipient of public assistance who is discovered to have real or personal property and who received assistance and care during the preceding ten years. The official is entitled to recover up to the value of such property with the cost of assistance or care provided. The official’s ability to proceed is limited when the recipient of the public assistance is a minor. No right of action shall arise against a person provided with assistance or care who is under twenty-one years of age unless the person possessed excess money and property taking into account his maintenance, education, medical care and any other factors applicable to his condition when the assistance or care was granted.

The mere fact that the man’s injury was sustained while he was still a minor does not insulate the proceeds of his personal injury settlement from attachment. The Department should not be barred from seeking recovery for four years of public assistance simply by virtue of the fact that a settlement was reached when the man was 25 had its origins in an incident that occurred when the man was still a minor. He was an adult when the public assistance payments at issue were made and such alone is conclusive. Although the Department has a claim for payments made after the man reached his legal age, the Department is not barred from attaching a portion of the man’s settlement proceeds. Since the man was an adult when the public assistance in question was granted, a right of action is lawful. As a result, the Department was free to proceed in order to recover the payments made to the man after he reached his legal age. Thus, the Department’s encumbrance on the man’s settlement should be reinstated to the extent that it corresponds to the public assistance that was granted to him after he reached his 21st birthday.

The order as appealed from should be reversed with costs. The man’s application to vacate the Department’s encumbrance against the proceeds from his settlement of the personal injury action is denied.

Minor persons are more prone to be victims of unlawful arrest. A Suffolk County Personal Injury Lawyer said that with their age comes the inability to stay away from group squabbles and petty crimes but they get harmed anyway and a simple injury can lead to a partial or full body paralysis and even wrongful death.

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