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Danville v. Garrett

Supreme Court of Virginia

August 31, 2017

CITY OF DANVILLE
v.
JACQUELINE GARRETT

         FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF DANVILLE Joseph W. Milam, Jr., Judge

         PRESENT: All the Justices

          OPINION

          S. BERNARD GOODWYN, JUSTICE.

         In this appeal, we consider whether the circuit court erred by applying Code § 51.1-813 to determine the amount of disability benefits that the City of Danville and its retirement system are obligated to pay a former police officer.

         Background

         Jacqueline Garrett (Garrett) filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of the City of Danville against the City of Danville (the City) on March 6, 2013, alleging that the City had failed to pay her the proper amount of benefits to which she was entitled as a disabled police officer. The City was paying Garrett a benefit calculated pursuant to Chapter 32 of the Danville Code of Ordinances, which established the terms of the City of Danville's Employees' Retirement System (ERS), pursuant to which Garrett received a benefit of 30 percent of her salary. Garrett alleged that, as a service-related disabled police officer, Code § 51.1-813 establishes her entitlement to a minimum benefit of 66 2/3 percent of her average salary.

         On December 11, 2015, the circuit court held a bench trial in which it addressed the issue of whether Code § 51.1-813, rather than Chapter 32 of the Danville Code of Ordinances, controlled the calculation of the amount of Garrett's disability benefits.

         The parties stipulated to the following:

1. Garrett was injured on February 24, 2008 in a motor vehicle accident while employed as a police officer for the City.
2. She received a workers' compensation award as a result of the injuries she had in that accident.
3. She applied for and received what is called line of duty designation [disability], that her disability, her inability to work as a police officer, was the result of injuries she had in that motor vehicle accident, and that application was approved on June 13, 2013.
4. The City is not part of the State retirement system.
5. The City's retirement system is governed by Chapter 32 of ...

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