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August 14, 2012

Prior litigation does not bar revaluation of disabled employee’s ability to perform the duties of the position


Prior litigation does not bar revaluation of disabled employee’s ability to perform the duties of the position
Bett v City of Lackawanna, 53 AD3d 1097

A firefighter was disabled, preventing him from performing his duties as a firefighter and he was paid him his full salary until he was terminated after he failed to report to work for light duty.

The firefighter sued and the court found that he was entitled to continue receiving his salary because Lackawanna had never made a determination pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-a (3) that he was medically able to perform light duties [see Bett v City of Lackawanna, 132 Misc 2d 630, affirmed 132 AD2d 951, 76 NY2d 900).

In this subsequent action the firefighter contended that Lackawanna is barred by principles of res judicata or collateral estoppel from now determining whether he is medically able to perform light duty work pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-a(3).

The Appellate Division rejected his argument. While Lackawanna could not discharge the firefighter because he failed to report for light duty work as it had not establish at that time that he was medically able to perform such work, Lackawanna is not precluded by that prior litigation from now evaluating the firefighter's medical condition. Indeed, said the court, it is because the firefighter is receiving the full amount of his "regular salary" pursuant to §207-a (1), he is required to undergo periodic medical evaluations.

The court also dismissed the firefighter’s claim that “the principles of equity and fairness” bar Lackawanna from ordering him to perform light duty work.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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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