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Monday, July 25, 2011

Accidental disability retirement

Accidental disability retirement
Michalczyk v NYSERS, 286 AD2d 852

Whether or not an employee has reported for work and whether or not the individual's injury resulted from an accident were the critical issues raised in considering Henry Michalczyk's application for accidental disability retirement benefits.

Michalczyk was employed as a Security Hospital Supervising Treatment Assistant at a State psychiatric center. He was injured as a result of two falls. However, his application for accidental disability retirement benefits was denied by the New York State Employees' Retirement System [ERS].

As to his first fall, Michalczyk said he fell while he was walking across an icy parking lot on his way to work. According to Michalczyk, the process of reporting to work at the psychiatric center involved passing through a metal detector, showing identification and obtaining keys. None of these steps had been taken prior to his fall.

The Appellate Division pointed out that it had “repeatedly held” that an employee who is injured before reporting for work is not eligible for accidental disability retirement benefits because he or she was not “in service” when the injuries were sustained. Since Michalczyk had not yet reported for work at the time of his fall, the court ruled that substantial evidence supported ERS's determination denying his claim for disability retirement benefits.

Michalczyk's claim based on the injury he suffered as a result of his second fall raised a different issue: what is an accident.

Michalczyk was injured as a result of a fall while at work on August 18, 1997 -- he slipped while descending a flight of stairs at his work place in the course of making his daily inspection rounds.

Michalczyk testified that he had routinely used the stairs without incident on a daily basis prior to his fall. It was further established that the stairs were clean and unobstructed at the time of Michalczyk fell.

ERS ruled that this mishap was not the product of an “accident” within the meaning of the Retirement and Social Security Law [RSSL].

In Lichtenstein v Board of Trustees of Police Pension Fund, 57 NY2d 1010, the Court of Appeals said that an accident for the purposes of entitlement to accidental disability benefits under RSSL is a “sudden, fortuitous mischance, unexpected, out of the ordinary, and injurious in impact.”

The court sustained ERS's determination, commenting that “[g]iven [Michalczyk's] routine use of the stairs in performing his daily employment duties, his fall cannot be construed as the result of an extraordinary or unexpected event; hence, it was properly found to result from his own misstep and not the type of accident that would render him eligible for benefits.”

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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