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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Proving that a work-connected injury suffered as the result of an unexpected or unforeseeable event is critical to the approval of an application for accidental disability retirement benefits


Proving that a work-connected injury suffered as the result of an unexpected or unforeseeable event is critical to the approval of an application for accidental disability retirement benefits
Suppa v DiNapoli, 2012 NY Slip Op 08622, Appellate Division, Third Department

Frank J. Suppa, a police detective, suffered a back and knee injury when, in the course of his conducting a surveillance of a suspect, stones on the retaining wall on which he was standing shifted causing him to fall. 

Contending that he was permanently disabled from performing his duties as a detective as the result of his fall, Suppa filed an application with the New York Employees' Retirement System for accidental disability retirement benefits and, in the alternative, an application for performance of duty disability retirement benefits.

The Retirement System found that Suppa was permanently disabled from performing his duties as a police detective as a result of his injuries and his application for performance of duty retirement benefits was approved.

As to Suppa’s application for accidental disability retirement benefits, the System denied that application, ruling that the incident leading to his disability “did not constitute an accident within the meaning of the Retirement and Social Security Law.”

The Appellate Division agreed, noting that the applicant ”bears the burden of proving that his [or her] injury was accidental” and the Retirement System’s determination to the contrary will be sustained “if supported by substantial evidence."

An accident within the meaning of the Retirement and Social Security Law, explained the court, is "a sudden, fortuitous mischance which is unexpected and out of the ordinary.”

Further, said the Appellate Division, "an incident does not qualify as an accident justifying the award of accidental disability retirement benefits where the injury results from an expected or foreseeable event arising during the performance of routine employment duties."

Suppa had testified that he was performing a routine job duty when he was injured and that he was aware that the stone wall that he climbed upon was made up of "large loose boulders" that were merely piled on top of each other, without anything holding the boulders together.

Under these circumstances, said the court, the possibility that one of the boulders would come loose under Suppa's weight as he was standing on it was a foreseeable event. 

Accordingly, substantial evidence supported System's determination that the incident did not constitute an accident within the meaning of the Retirement and Social Security Law.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



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General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder and other disability retirement issues is available from the Public Employment Law Press. Click on http://section207.blogspot.com/ for additional information about this electronic reference manual.


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Electronic books [e-books] focusing on New York State and Municipal Public Personnel Law:

The Discipline Book, - a concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State. A 1900+ page e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - a 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5216.html

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 600+ page guide to penalties imposed on public employees in New York State found guilty of selected acts of misconduct. For more information, click on http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html

General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - Disability Leave for fire, police and other public sector personnel - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/3916.html

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