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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Workers' Compensation Board’s granting an award for a work-related injury does not, "by operation of collateral estoppel,” automatically entitle the claimant to General Municipal Law §207-c benefits


Workers' Compensation Board’s granting an award for a work-related injury does not, "by operation of collateral estoppel,” automatically entitle the claimant to General Municipal Law §207-c benefits
Jackson v Barber, 2015 NY Slip Op 08025, Appellate Division, Third Department

Lawrence Jackson, diagnosed with plantar fasciitis* in his left foot while working as a correction officer for the Cortland County Sheriff's Department, filed an application for workers' compensation benefits.
Jackson’s claim was granted and the Workers' Compensation Board confirmed the award.

Jackson also applied for disability benefits pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-c. Annette Barber, Cortland County’s Personnel Officer denied Jackson’s application on the merits upon her determination that petitioner's condition was idiopathic, i.e., without a specific cause.

Jackson appealed and Barber upheld her initial determination based on the Hearing Officer's recommendation to do so and Jackson initiated an CPLR Article 78 action challenging Barber’s decision.

Jackson argued that a determination by the Workers' Compensation Board that an injury is work-related by operation of collateral estoppel, automatically entitle an injured employee to General Municipal Law §207-c benefits." The Appellate Division disagreed and citing Balcerak v County of Nassau, 94 NY2d 253, explained that the Board's determination did not collaterally estop Barber from denying Jackson's application for General Municipal Law § 207-c benefits.

The Appellate Division also commented that substantial evidence supports the determination denying [Jackson] benefits noting that §207-c entitled correction officers to benefits when they are injured "in the performance of [their] duties" if they can establish the existence of a "'direct causal relationship between job duties and the resulting illness or injury.

An orthopaedic surgeon reviewed Jackson's medical records and conducted an independent medical examination of Jackson. The orthopaedic surgeon opined that, “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, [Jackson']s plantar fasciitis was idiopathic.” Although Jackson introduced “contrary expert evidence,” the Appellate Division said that  the Hearing Officer "was entitled to weigh the conflicting medical opinions and determine which expert to credit."

The court held that as the orthopaedic surgeon "articulate[d] a rational and fact-based opinion founded upon a physical examination and review of the pertinent medical records," the Hearing Officer's reliance on such evidence was reasonable and, therefore, Jackson's application for §207-c benefits was properly denied.

* Plantar fasciitis, also known as plantar fasciosis or jogger's heel, is a disorder that results in pain in the heel and bottom of the foot.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2015/2015_08025.htm

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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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