Paterson pays out almost $480,000 in workers’ compensation claims | Paterson Times Paterson Times

Paterson pays out almost $480,000 in workers’ compensation claims

By Jayed Rahman
Published: June 23, 2017


The city council settled 11 workers compensation cases on Tuesday night paying out $479,243.

The three biggest claims were filed by firefighters John Howe for $102,600, Robert Stemmler for $87,750, and public works park caretaker Walter Cruz for $76,413, according to city records.

Howe allegedly injured his lower back while lifting a patient onto a stretcher on Jan. 27, 2015. Stemmler allegedly injured his bilateral shoulders when he tried to prevent a ladder from falling on July 14, 2014. And Cruz allegedly injured his neck and back in a motor vehicle accident on July 2, 2014; on Aug. 23, 2014, he allegedly injured his back lifting the tailgate of a truck, according to city records.

Council members approved settling these three and other claims in a special meeting on Tuesday night. However, the council rejected a workers’ compensation claim filed by retired police chief James Wittig.

Wittig allegedly sustained injuries from “repetitive motion, exposure to irritants,” “loud noises”, and “exposure to stressful situations” in one incident and allegedly injured his left shoulder and neck in a slip and fall up steps at work, according to the city records.

Councilman Michael Jackson led the opposition against approving Witting’s claim. He reportedly said the city needs to do a better job contesting false claims.

Council president William McKoy said the city needs to do a better job documenting injury incidents to be able to better contest them. He voted in favor of paying $34,857 to settle Wittig’s claim.

McKoy said the city has little choice, but to pay the claims. He noted judges and arbitrators often side with workers in these cases. He said the city will ultimately have to pay the cost, but may incur additional expense in litigation.

The administration may present the resolution to pay out Wittig’s claim for a second vote.

The other claims paid out by the city were as follows:

The city will pay out the claims from its temporary budget for fiscal year 2018 which starts in July. In fiscal year 2016, the city spent $6.5 million to cover workers compensation claims far more than it had budgeted for that year. It budgeted $4.9 million for workers compensation in fiscal year 2017 (current fiscal year which ends this month).

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