GABRIELE NYENHUIS v. METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COMMISSION,        SC 18590

Judicial District of Hartford

 

      Indemnification; Collective Bargaining Agreements; Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies; Whether Plaintiff Seeking Indemnification Under General Statutes § 53-39a Must First Exhaust Administrative Remedies Under Collective Bargaining Agreement; Whether Plaintiff Suffered "Economic Loss" that was a Result of a Prosecution Within Meaning of § 53-39a.  While working as a police officer for the defendant, the plaintiff was involved in an incident with a private citizen.  Following a complaint filed by the citizen, the defendant removed the plaintiff's police powers and placed her on administrative duties.  The plaintiff was subsequently charged with assault, reckless endangerment and falsely reporting an incident.  After a jury trial, the plaintiff was acquitted of all charges.  The plaintiff then brought this action under General Statutes § 53-39a, seeking monetary reimbursement from the defendant for the sick time, earned time, vacation time and overtime that she lost as a result of the criminal prosecution.  Section 53-39a authorizes a police officer to bring an action against his or her employer for indemnification for economic loss sustained as a result of a prosecution for a crime allegedly committed in the course of the officer's duties, where the charge is dismissed or the officer is found not guilty.  The defendant claimed that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the matter because the plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the terms of her collective bargaining agreement.  The trial court disagreed, finding that the administrative remedy would be futile or inadequate because the plaintiff may seek damages under the statute for economic losses that are potentially greater than the relief available under the collective bargaining agreement.  The court also found that because the plaintiff was pursuing a statutory claim, General Statutes § 31-51bb relieved her of the exhaustion requirement.  Section 31-51bb provides that "[n]o employee shall be denied the right to pursue, in a court of competent jurisdiction, a cause of action arising under . . . a state statute solely because the employee is covered by a collective bargaining agreement. . . ."  The trial court then found that the plaintiff was entitled to indemnification for her losses and awarded her damages of $73,072.50.  On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly found that the plaintiff was not required to exhaust her administrative remedies.  The defendant also claims that the plaintiff's lost sick time, earned time, vacation time and overtime do not constitute "economic loss" within the meaning of § 53-39a and that there was insufficient evidence that the plaintiff's losses were the result of a prosecution as required by the statute.  The defendant further claims that the trial court improperly found that the plaintiff was entitled to recover for her losses dating back to the date on which on which the crimes were alleged to have occurred, rather than to the date on which the criminal charges were filed.