The plaintiff has appealed from a judgment of the Court of Common Pleas in which he sought a declaratory judgment determining his retirement benefits as they were affected by the payment of a lump sum settlement under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The facts underlying this controversy are not in dispute: The plaintiff had been employed for many years by the city of Bridgeport. The city participates in Fund B of the Connecticut Municipal Employees' Retirement Fund which is administered by the defendant State Employees' Retirement Commission. The plaintiff was eligible for normal, voluntary age and service retirement on September 30, 1975, and did, in fact, retire on that date and begin to collect monthly retirement allowances. On November 7, 1975, pursuant to the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act, the plaintiff entered into a stipulation with the city of Bridgeport for the settlement of a claim, pending at the time of his retirement, in the amount of $30,000 which was paid to him for an injury received during the course of his employment. Thereafter, on April 21, 1977, the commission notified the plaintiff that his retirement benefits were suspended as of April 1, 1977, until his total future payments of retirement benefits equaled the amount of the workmen's compensation award. The plaintiff then sought a declaratory ruling as to the validity of this order, and the commission responded that the order would stand.
Following this ruling, the plaintiff brought an action in the Court of Common Pleas requesting a declaratory judgment to determine whether § 7-436 of the General Statutes required a deduction of his workmen's compensation benefits from his retirement payments, and requesting reinstatement of the
The basis of the trial court's decision, and the plaintiff's claim of error, lies in its interpretation of § 7-436 (a) of the General Statutes.
The trial court determined that the plaintiff was correct in his interpretation of the statutory language, concluding that the deduction of workmen's compensation payments from an employee's retirement allowance referred to in the statute did not refer to the retirement allowance in general, but related only to a retirement for reasons of disability. The court, however, found that the last sentence of § 7-436 (a) required the suspension of the plaintiff's retirement allowance until his retirement benefits equaled the full amount of his workmen's compensation award.
Upon this state of the record, we are required first to determine whether the court was correct in its interpretation of the phrase "such allowance" as used in the eighteenth and twenty-third lines of § 7-436 (a). We agree with the court's determination that the phrase in line twenty-three refers back only to the preceding use of the phrase in line
To what antecedent does the phrase "such allowance" in the sentence "[a]ny amount or amounts received under the workmen's compensation act shall be deducted from such allowance" refer? It is reasonable and permissible statutory construction to conclude that the word "such" in the sentence at line twenty-three refers back to the prior sentence which speaks of "such allowance for permanent and total disability." Bahre v. Hogbloom, 162 Conn. 549, 555-56, 295 A.2d 547 (1972); Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. v. Katona, 151 Conn. 417, 420, 198 A.2d 711 (1964). The word "such" has been construed as an adjective referring back to and identifying something previously spoken of; the word naturally, by grammatical usage, refers to the last antecedent. Estate of Hill, 214 Cal.App.2d 812, 820, 29 Cal.Rptr. 814 (1963); People ex rel. Miller v. Mobile & Ohio R. Co., 374 Ill. 376, 383, 29 N.E.2d 604 (1940); Joseph L. Pohl, Contractor, Inc. v. State Highway Commission, 431 S.W.2d 99, 105 (Mo. 1968); State ex rel. King v. Board of Trustees, 192 Mo. App. 583, 589-90, 184 S.W. 929 (1916); Richardson-Merrell, Inc. v. Main, 240 Or. 533, 538, 402 P.2d 746 (1965); Sharlin v. Neighborhood Theatre, Inc., 209 Va. 718, 721, 167 S.E.2d 334 (1969); cf. 73 Am. Jur. 2d, Statutes, § 244. The accepted dictionary definitions of "such" include "having a quality already or just specified," "previously characterized or specified," and "aforementioned." Webster, Third New International Dictionary; see Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. v. Katona, supra, 420.
The plaintiff's right to retirement payments became vested as of September 30, 1975, the date of his retirement, and he was entitled to receive those payments regardless of whether he may have been disabled to some extent by an injury for which he was entitled to workmen's compensation benefits.
It is an elementary rule of construction that statutes should be considered as a whole, with a view toward reconciling their separate parts in order to render a reasonable overall interpretation; the application, moreover, of common sense to the statutory language is not to be excluded. United Aircraft Corporation v. Fusari, 163 Conn. 401, 411, 311 A.2d 65 (1972); Garbaty v. Norwalk Jewish Center, Inc., 148 Conn. 376, 382, 171 A.2d 197 (1961). We must avoid a consequence which fails to attain a rational and sensible result which bears most directly on the object which the legislature sought to obtain. United Aircraft Corporation v. Fusari, supra, 414; Bridgeport v. Stratford, 142 Conn. 634, 644, 116 A.2d 508 (1955); Sage-Allen Co. v. Wheeler, 119 Conn. 667, 679, 179 A. 195 (1935). Applying these rules in the light of our discussion thus far, we are in agreement with the
We turn now to the question whether the court erred in concluding that the plaintiff's $30,000 workmen's compensation settlement should be deducted from his retirement benefits pursuant to the last sentence
The sentence does not, by its terms, authorize either a reduction or suspension of retirement benefits. It simply sets forth a maximum, stating that no payments should exceed a percentage of a member's average annual pay during the three highest paid years of his municipal service. We are in agreement with the plaintiff's argument that the last sentence of § 7-436 (a) is operative only in a situation where an employee is receiving a concurrent payment under § 7-431, as provided in the sentence preceding the last sentence of § 7-436 (a). In view of our conclusion that the sentences at lines eighteen and twenty-three of the statute do not authorize a suspension of the plaintiff's retirement benefits on account of his disability settlement, it would be anomalous to conclude that a deduction is dictated by the last sentence, which neither permits nor requires such a suspension. There is no indication in the record that any concurrent payments, for which a reduction of retirement benefits would be appropriate, were being made to the plaintiff. Workmen's compensation payments would be pertinent to the formula set forth at the close of § 7-436 (a) if there had otherwise been a proper reduction of the plaintiff's retirement benefits. In this regard, it is illuminating to note that the language of the original last sentence of § 7-436 (a), contained in § 891 of the 1949 revision of the General Statutes, did not refer to the "§ 7-431 reduction" in the previous sentence, but merely provided a maximum limit for retirement allowance, plus workmen's compensation payments. Had the legislature intended that concurrent payments for a
There is error, the judgment is set aside, and the case is remanded with direction to render judgment for the plaintiff.
In this opinion the other judges concurred.