Court of Appeals of Alaska (2022)
Anighya H.D. Crocker
In Grubb v. State, 506 P.3d 791 (Alaska Ct. App. 2022), the court of appeals held that Alaska law permits restitution only where lost wages and benefits are not too attenuated from the charged criminal conduct. (Id. at 792). Grubb pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, M.M. (Id. at 793). In addition to prison time, Grubb also agreed to pay restitution to the mother of the nine-year-old victim. (Id.). The State sought a total of $216,307.55 in restitution, $197,038 of which related to the mother’s lost future wages and benefits. (Id.). At a hearing on the matter, the mother testified that this figure represented the amount she would lose as the result of resigning from her teaching position to care for M.M., who was suffering from PTSD. (Id.). The mother testified that she had planned to teach for four more years and then would have qualified for the school system’s basic retirement plan. (Id. at 793–94). Thus, the mother calculated her loss as $197,038, an amount that incorporated four more years of work and retirement benefits beginning at the age of 42. (Id. at 794). The trial court granted the amount. (Id.). On appeal, Grubb asserted that the losses were too speculative to be compensable. (Id.). The court of appeals held that in order to obtain a restitution order for particular losses or damages, the State must establish that (1) a defendant’s criminal conduct was the “but-for” cause of the losses incurred, and (2) the losses were a natural and proximate result of the criminal conduct to which liability should attach. (Id. at 795). The court of appeals highlighted its hesitation to grant restitution for wages lost as a result of an individual’s decision to resign from work to provide emotional care for a victim family member. (Id. at 798). The court also pointed out that the mother’s asserted losses hinged on factors unconnected to Grubb’s criminal conduct, such as the flexibility of her job, her supervisor’s diminished willingness to accommodate her scheduling needs, and her decision to resign rather than take a leave of absence (Id.). Thus, the court of appeals found the asserted future losses too speculative to allow for compensation for lost financial benefits in this case. (Id. at 799). Reversing and remanding the lower court’s restitution order, the court of appeals held that Alaska law permits restitution only where lost wages and benefits are not too attenuated from the charged criminal conduct. (Id. at 792).