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Monday, January 30, 2012

Agency or insurance carrier must provide substantial evidence to rebut presumptions set out in Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law as to cause of death

Agency or insurance carrier must provide substantial evidence to rebut presumptions set out in Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law as to cause of death
Machajewski v Town of Cambria, 89 AD3d 1175

Gerald A. Machajewski, a volunteer firefighter for the Town of Cambria, Niagara County, collapsed while responding to a call and died shortly thereafter.

It was determined that Machajewski suffered an acute coronary artery thrombosis, and the Workers' Compensation Board, applying the rebuttable presumptions contained in Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law §§44 and 61*, ultimately approved a claim for workers' compensation death benefits by Machajewski’s widow.

When the Town’s and its workers' compensation carrier’s appealed the Board’s determination, the Appellate Division said that there is no dispute that a heart or coronary artery condition caused Machajewski's death and thus his widow would entitled to death benefits if that condition "resulted from the duties and activities in which [decedent] was engaged" (Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law §61[1]).

As the record indicated that Machajewski had never been diagnosed with a heart condition and had been examined by his physician just weeks before his death and was found to be in good health, the Appellate Division ruled that “Inasmuch as that ‘evidence permits reasonable inferences to sustain the finding of the [B]oard that the death was due to unusual strain and effort’ attendant to [Machajewski’s] duties, the Town was obliged to provide substantial evidence to the contrary in order to defeat his widow’s application.

The court held that “the Board properly determined that claimant's demonstration of entitlement to death benefits had not been rebutted.”

* Presumptions regarding death or disability due to disease or malfunction of his or her heart or coronary arteries suffered by a volunteer firefighter alleged to have resulted from the performance of the duties and activities in which the volunteer fireman was engaged

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_07765.htm

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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