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Knapp v. Syracuse University

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

May 19, 1954

In the Matter of the Claim of JAMES R. KNAPP, Respondent,
v.
SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, Appellant. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION BOARD, Respondent.

Page 185

APPEAL from decisions of the Workmen's Compensation Board filed September 9, 1952, January 15, 1953, and March 4, 1953, which determined that appellant employer was subject to the provisions of the Disability Benefits Law (Workmen's Compensation Law, art. 9) as to respondent employee, and from the amended award made to said employee and filed on March 4, 1953, of the sum of $338 less $179.40 which said employee had received in social security benefits.

COUNSEL

John L. Madison for appellant.

Nathaniel L. Goldstein, Attorney-General (John J. Quinn and Roy Wiedersum of counsel), for Workmen's Compensation Board, respondent.

IMRIE, J.

Claimant worked for Syracuse University, hereafter referred to as the employer, in the maintenance of its university building in downtown Syracuse, New York. The employer is a corporation organized and operated exclusively as an educational institution. The building is not located on the campus. It is not used in any of the educational activities of the owner, but is leased to various tenants with the net rentals being paid into the university treasury. Claimant suffered an illness in February, 1952, which disabled him until July, 1952, or later. The Workmen's Compensation Board awarded him benefits under the Disability Benefits Law (Workmen's Compensation Law, art. 9). The employer has appealed, contending that it is exempt from the coverage of the above-mentioned statute

Page 186

by reason of the exception in subdivision 6 of section 201 thereof. The board found that the employer is not by definition an exempt employer and that employment by it is excluded from the obligations of the law only as to services performed for an exclusively educational purpose.

The Disability Benefits Law was enacted in 1949 as an addition to the Workmen's Compensation Law and as a part and parcel of the social legislation of the State. Its design is to accomplish the same ends as and to complement the Workmen's Compensation Law in according benefits to employees within this State. When approving the law, Governor Dewey stated, in part, 'This bill (L. 1949, ch. 600) brings to the working men and women of the State of New York the benefits of social insurance against the hazards of sickness and disability not incurred in their employment.' It is to be literally construed in order that its purpose may be accomplished and is to be read with the law of which it is a part.

Interpretation of the statute requires consideration of its spirit and purpose as well as the objects which the Legislature has sought to accomplish. 'Literal meanings of words are not to be adhered to or suffered to 'defeat the general purpose and manifest policy intended to be promoted; ' all parts of the act must be read and construed together for the purpose of determining the legislative intent, and if the statute is ambiguous and two constructions can be given, the one must be adopted which will not cause objectionable results or cause inconvenience, hardship, injustice or mischief or lead to absurdity.' ( People v. Ryan, 274 N.Y. 149, 152.) 'Our only duty is to ascertain the meaning and intent of the lawmakers. The intention of the law-makers is the law. That intention is to be gathered from the necessity or the reason of the enactment.' (Matter of Schmidt v. Wolf Contr. Co., 269 A.D. 201, 203, affd. 295 N.Y. 748.)

An analysis of this law discloses significance in that the impact of obligation on employers is keyed to 'employment' instead of the mere existence of 'employees'. Subdivision 4 of section 201 defines an employer as 'a person, partnership, association, corporation, * * * who has persons in employment as defined in subdivision six of this section, but does not include the state, a municipal corporation, local governmental agency, other political subdivisions or public authority.' No private employer is excepted therefrom.

Subdivision 5 of that section defines an employee as 'a person engaged in the service of an employer in any employment defined

Page 187

in subdivision six of this section, except the spouse or a minor child of the employer, and except a minister, priest, rabbi or member of a ...


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