United States v. Burke, 504 U.S. 229, 16 (1992)

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244

UNITED STATES v. BURKE

Scalia, J., concurring in judgment

to connote injuries to physical (or mental) health. It is almost as odd to believe that the first part of the phrase "personal injuries or sickness" encompasses defamation, as it would be to believe that the first part of the phrase "five feet, two inches" refers to pedal extremities.

The commonsense interpretation I suggest is supported as well by several other factors. First, the term "personal injuries or sickness" is used three other times in 104(a), and in each instance its sense is necessarily limited to injuries to physical or mental health. See 104(a)(1) (gross income does not include "amounts received under workmen's compensation acts as compensation for personal injuries or sickness" (emphasis added)); 104(a)(3) (gross income does not include "amounts received through accident or health insurance for personal injuries or sickness" (emphasis added)); 104(a)(4) (gross income does not include "amounts received as a pension, annuity, or similar allowance for personal injuries or sickness resulting from active service in the armed forces . . . or as a disability annuity payable under . . . the Foreign Service Act" (emphasis added)). When, sandwiched in among these provisions, one sees an exclusion for "the amount of any damages received . . . on account of personal injuries or sickness," one has little doubt what is intended, and it is not recovery for defamation (or other invasions of "personal" interests that do not, of necessity, harm the victim's physical or mental health). Second, the provision at issue here is a tax exemption, a category of text for which we have adopted a rule of narrow construction. See, e. g., United States v. Centennial Savings Bank FSB, 499 U. S. 573, 583-584 (1991).3

3 Congress amended 104(a), in 1989, to provide prospectively that 104(a)(2) shall not shelter from taxation "punitive damages in connection with a case not involving physical injury or physical sickness." Pub. L. 101-239, 7641(a), 103 Stat. 2379, 26 U. S. C. 104(a) (1988 ed., Supp. I); see id., 7641(b). As thus amended it is clear (whereas previously it was not) that "personal injuries or sickness" includes not only physical, but

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