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Friday, June 15, 2012

An employer may find that firefighter’s disability was not the result of a work-related injury or disease not withstanding the Retirement System’s decision to the contrary


An employer may find that firefighter’s disability was not the result of a work-related injury or disease not withstanding the Retirement System’s decision to the contrary
Davenport v City of Mount Vernon, 2012 NY Slip Op 04744, Appellate Division, Second Department

The City of Mount Vernon Fire Commissioner adopted the recommendation of a hearing officer denying a firefighter’s application for supplemental benefits otherwise available pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-a(2).* The Appellate Division confirmed the Commissioner’s decision, commenting that it was supported by substantial evidence.

The court said that the record contains evidence consisting of the reports of three orthopedic surgeons, each of whom concluded that the firefighter's condition was not caused by an accident, explaining that the Commissioner had the authority to evaluate conflicting medical evidence, and was free to credit evidence based on reports of one set of physicians over that of another set of physicians.

In Cook v City Of Utica, 88 NY 2d 833, the court ruled that while a disabled firefighter's Section 207-a benefits may depend in part on benefits paid pursuant to RSSL Section 363-c, there is no specific statutory language or anything in the legislative history concerning these measures suggesting that the Comptroller's eligibility determination with respect to RSSL benefits precluded the municipal employer from making a separate, and, as here, contrary determination with respect an individual's eligibility for GML Section 207-a benefits. Accordingly, the employer could deny granting the firefighter supplemental benefits to his or her disability retirement allowance upon a finding that the disability was not the result of a work-related injury or disease that was supported by substantial evidence.

Similarly, in Balcerak v Nassau County, 94 NY2d 25, the Court of Appeals said that "[a] determination by the Workers' Compensation Board that an injury is work-related does not by operation of collateral estoppel, automatically entitle an injured [police] officer to General Municipal Law Section 207-c benefits."

Accordingly, an employer was not precluded from determining that an individual was not entitled to Section 207-c benefits despite a prior Workers' Compensation determination in an employee had suffered an "on-the-job" injury.

* The amount of the supplement that would be paid the disabled firefighter pursuant to §207-a(2) would the difference between his or her retirement allowance and the compensation he or she would have received in active service, payable until the firefighter's mandatory age of retirement.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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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