September 08, 2010

Full evidentiary hearing required before discontinuing GML Section 207-a benefits

Full evidentiary hearing required before discontinuing GML Section 207-a benefits
Giorgio v Bucci, Appellate Division, 246 A.D.2d 711, Motion to appeal denied, 91 N.Y.2d 814

Thomas Giorgio, a Binghamton firefighter, began receiving disability benefits pursuant to Section 207-a effective January 13, 1996 based on his claim of a work-related injury on that date. On May 23, 1996 Binghamton told Giorgio that his benefits were being terminated, alleging that there was “newly discovered evidence that his condition predated the January 13, 1996 incident.”

Giorgio sued, but withdrew that action when the City agreed to continue his benefits and give him a “pre-termination hearing.” The City upheld the original decision to deny him Section 207-a benefits on the grounds that Giorgio’s injury was not the result of a work-related incident. Again Giorgio sued, seeking reinstatement to the payroll, restoration of his leave credits and a declaration that the administrative procedure used by the City was unconstitutional.

On the merits of Giorgio’s “due process claims,” the Appellate Division said that he had been denied “the right to a full evidentiary hearing prior to the termination of his benefits.” Why? Because, said the Court, Giorgio had not been allowed to confront and cross-examine witnesses or to offer evidence on his own behalf.

The lesson here is that when an employer holds a hearing to determine whether Section 207-a [and, presumably, Section 207-c] benefits should be discontinued, it must be a full evidentiary hearing, complying with all the requirements of administrative due process.

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