Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Volunteer firefighter injured while engaged in the Fire District’s program to maintain his or her ability to perform his or her duties compensable under the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefits Law


Volunteer firefighter injured while engaged in the Fire District’s program to maintain his or her ability to perform his or her duties compensable under the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefits Law

All volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians in the Volunteer Fire District were informed that the swine flu vaccine was going to be provided for them at a designated clinic. One firefighter/EMT was refused the vaccine at that clinic but subsequently went to different clinic to receive her flu shot. Returning home, the firefighter/EMT was involved in a one-car accident that resulted in multiple injuries.

The individual filed a claim for benefits available pursuant to the Volunteer Firefighters Law and a hearing was held to determine whether her claim fell within the provisions of the Act. Ultimately, the Workers' Compensation Board determined that her injuries were incurred while she was engaged in an activity covered by the law and awarded her benefits. The District and its workers' compensation carrier appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s determination, explaining: “[W]hether a given activity of a volunteer fire fighter falls within the line of duty is a question of statutory construction particularly within the Board's expertise.” In this instance the Board found that injuries suffered by the firefighter/EMT were compensable pursuant to Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law §5(1)(p).

§5(1)(p). covers individuals participating in a "supervised physical fitness class, group session or program for the purpose of promoting or maintaining the performance of their duties as firefighters, as well as necessary travel to and necessary travel from such activity."

Here, said the court, the record demonstrates that “the District, at the very least, strongly encouraged EMTs to receive the swine flu vaccination and made arrangements for them to receive the vaccine at no cost.” Under these circumstances, the Appellate Division found that the Board could reasonably conclude that individual's injuries were sustained pursuant to her participation in a program to maintain the performance of her duties and, thus, its determination was supported by substantial evidence

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_03920.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/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions 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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