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November 18, 2010

Comptroller may subpoena employee’s medical records in reviewing employer-initiated application for disability retirement

Comptroller may subpoena employee’s medical records in reviewing employer-initiated application for disability retirement
Burns v NY State and Local Police and Fire Retirement Systems, 258 AD2d 692

Town of Clarkstown police officer Robert Burns was granted Section 207-c benefits after suffering a work-related injury in May 1993. In 1996, the department filed an application for disability retirement with the State and Local Police and Fire Retirement Systems [PFRS] seeking Burns “involuntary retirement from the police force.”*

When PFRS asked Burns to sign a consent form for the release of his medical records for its review, he refused. The Comptroller then issued subpoenas for the production of his medical records to a hospital and to two physicians. Burns attempted to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that the release of his medical records would “violate the physician-patient privilege” of Section 4505 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. The Appellate Division affirmed a lower court’s ruling that Section 4504 did not protect Burns’ medical records since the Comptroller had the authority to determine applications for retirement benefits and had statutory authority to issue subpoenas.

The Appellate Division said that Burns “affirmatively placed his medical condition in issue and effectively waived the physician-patient privilege” by applying for Section 207-c benefits.

The Court said that “to exempt medical records essential to a determination of whether the disability resulted from an in-service injury would vitiate the purpose of [Section 363-c(c)(2) of the Retirement and Social Security Law], expressly permitting a municipal employer to seek the involuntary retirement of a disabled officer.”

* Both Section 207-a and Section 207-c of the General Municipal Law authorize the employer to file an application for disability retirement on behalf of an individual receiving benefits pursuant to these sections.
NYPPL

Public Personnel Law E-books

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A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 442-page e-book focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. Now available in two formats - as a large, paperback print edition and as an e-book. For more information click on

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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

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