ANTHONY J. MAIO v. CITY OF NEW HAVEN, SC 19401

Judicial District of New Haven

 

     Police; Whether General Statutes § 53-39a Authorizes Indemnification of Police Officer Found Not Guilty of Crimes Allegedly Committed While Officer in Course of “Extra Duty” Work; Whether Offer of Compromise Interest Available in § 53-39a Action.  The collective bargaining agreement between the defendant city and its police union provides that the police department may assign officers to “extra police duty,” which is defined as “police duty for which an employee is paid directly or indirectly by some party other than the City.”  The plaintiff police officer was accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with women while he was on an “extra duty” assignment at a nightclub and charged with criminal offenses in connection with those accusations.  The plaintiff was acquitted of the charges, and he brought this action pursuant to General Statutes § 53-39a seeking that the defendant indemnify him for the economic loss he sustained as a result of the prosecution.  That statute affords a police officer a right of indemnity for economic loss incurred for a prosecution “for a crime allegedly committed by such officer in the course of his duty as such” if the charge is dismissed or the officer found not guilty.  The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him $187,256.46 to compensate him for the loss caused by the criminal prosecution.  The trial court, however, declined to award the plaintiff offer of compromise interest pursuant to General Statutes § 52-192a.  The defendant appeals, claiming that § 53-39a is not applicable where a police officer is assigned to “extra duty” work.  In connection with that claim, the defendant urges the Supreme Court to overrule its precedent interpreting the phrase “in the course of his duty” in § 53-39a.  In Rawling v. New Haven, 206 Conn. 100 (1988), the Supreme Court construed that phrase by looking to the meaning of “course of employment” under workers' compensation law and held that conduct that gives rise to the criminal charges occurs “in the course of [the officer’s] duty” if it takes place (a) within the period of the employment, (b) at a place the officer could reasonably be, and (c) while the officer is reasonably fulfilling the duties of his employment or doing something incidental to it.  The defendant claims that because § 53-39a imposes a burden on the public fisc for the benefit of one person in derogation of the common law, it must be strictly construed and therefore that it is improper to utilize the broad definition of “course of employment” provided for in workers’ compensation law to define the scope of § 53-39a.  The defendant further contends that, under its plain language, § 53-39a does not apply to officers performing “extra duty” work because such officers are acting as private security rather than as public police officers.  The plaintiff cross appeals, claiming that the trial court improperly rejected his claim for offer of judgment interest on determining that (1) the term “economic loss” in § 53-39a does not include offer of compromise interest, which is punitive in nature, and (2) an indemnification action under § 53-39a is not an action for “money damages” within the meaning of § 52-192a.