September 15, 2010

Determinng Claims for accidental disability retirement benefits based on GML Section 207-kk, the so-called "Cancer Bill"

Determinng Claims for accidental disability retirement benefits based on GML Section 207-kk, the so-called "Cancer Bill"
Kopetz v Article 1-B Pension Fund, 255 A.D.2d 443

The so-called Cancer Bill, General Municipal Law Section 207-kk, provides eligibility for accidental disability retirement under certain conditions.

Frederick Kopetz, a former New York City firefighter, challenged a determination by his pension fund rejecting his application for an accidental disability retirement allowance. Kopetz's claim was based on his having had cancer and undergoing a nephrectomy for removal of the right kidney.

Kopetz had returned to full duty, and had been cancer-free since the surgery. He was placed on light duty because of other medical conditions. Eventually the Medical Board of the New York City Fire Department Article 1-B Pension Fund concluded that he was not capable of full duty and recommended that he be retired on ordinary disability.

The Board of Trustees of the pension fund concurred. It observed that Kopetz's own physicians indicated that his disability was caused by hypertension and cerebrovascular insufficiency. Because his disability was not result of cancer or any line-of-duty injury, the board concluded that he was not entitled to benefits under the cancer bill.

Kopetz objected, contending that he should be retired on accidental disability retirement on the theory that he was entitled to an ADR because he once had cancer.

He contended that the law granted accidental disability retirement benefits to qualified persons who suffer:

... any condition of impairment of health caused by (i) any condition of cancer affecting the lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary or prostate systems or (ii) melanoma resulting in total or partial disability or death to a paid member of a fire department in a city with a population of one million or more [i.e., the City of New York], who successfully passed a physical examination on entry into the service of such department, which examination failed to reveal any evidence of such condition, shall be presumptive evidence that it was incurred in the performance and discharge of duty unless the contrary be proved by competent evidence.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Vaughan dismissed Kopetz's petition. The court commenting that Kopetz, who bore the burden of proof, had not met his burden. A court cannot disturb an administrative determination unless it finds that the determination is arbitrary or capricious or erroneous as a matter of law. Justice Vaughn said there was no basis for such a determination in this case.
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