Thursday, January 14, 2016

Comptroller has the exclusive authority to weigh the evidence and credit the opinion of one medical expert over that of another medical expert when reviewing an application for disability retirement


Comptroller has the exclusive authority to weigh the evidence and credit the opinion of one medical expert over that of another medical expert when reviewing an application for disability retirement
Sugrue v New York State Comptroller, 2015 NY Slip Op 09595, Appellate Division, Third Department

Michael G. Sugrue, a correction officer, suffered injuries at work and applied for disability retirement benefits pursuant to Retirement and Social Security Law Article 15.

Sugrue claimed that he was permanently incapacitated from performing his job duties as the result of injuries he suffered to his right shoulder, his right wrist and middle fingers of his right hand. Following a hearing, the Hearing Officer found that Sugrue failed to establish that he was permanently incapacitated from performing his job duties.

The State Comptroller adopted the Hearing Officer's findings and denied Sugrue’s application for accidental disability retirement benefits and Sugrue filed an Article 78 petition seeking to have the court vacate the Comptroller’s determination.

Sugrue’s medical expert witness, a neurologist, opined that Sugrue was permanently disabled from the performance of his job duties “due to a median nerve injury at the right wrist, evidenced by positive Phalen's maneuver and Tinel's sign test results, an inability to flex and extend the first three fingers of his right hand and right carpal tunnel syndrome, finding that carpal tunnel surgery performed on petitioner was unsuccessful.”

On the other hand, the Retirement System’s medical expert, an orthopedic surgeon, found that Sugrue “had full range of motion of his shoulder, right wrist and fingers and concluded that [Sugrue’s] carpal tunnel syndrome was treated successfully and had resolved.”

Based on his findings, the System’s expert opined that Sugrue was not permanently disabled from performing the duties of a correction officer. The Appellate Division also noted that the System’s expert performed an independent medical examination of Sugrue and concluded that “based upon negative Phalen's maneuver and Tinel's sign test results, [Sugrue’s] range of motion and a lack of swelling of the wrist, that no further treatment to petitioner's right wrist was necessary.”

The Appellate Division confirmed the Comptroller’s decision, explaining that Sugrue bore the burden of establishing that he was permanently incapacitated from performing his job duties. "Where, as here, there is conflicting medical evidence, the Comptroller is vested with the exclusive authority to weigh such evidence and credit the opinion of one medical expert over another."

The court said that inasmuch as the Retirement System’s expert offered a rational, fact-based opinion based upon a physical examination and a review of Sugrue's medical records, the Comptroller's denial of benefits is supported by substantial evidence and will not be disturbed, despite the existence of other evidence to support a contrary conclusion.

The court then turned to Sugrue’s remaining claims, including his claim that the Hearing Officer should have recused himself, and “found to be without merit.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

_______________________

The Disability Benefits E-book – 2016 Edition: This 810 page e-book focuses on disability benefits available to officers and employees in public service pursuant to Civil Service Law §§71, 72 and 73, General Municipal Law §207-a and §207-c, the Retirement and Social Security Law, the Workers’ Compensation Law, and similar provisions of law. For more information click on: http://section207.blogspot.com/
 _______________________



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/

Caution:

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.

THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material in this blog is presented with the understanding that the publisher is not providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader should seek such advice from a competent professional.

Items published in NYPPL may not be used for commercial purposes without prior written permission to copy and distribute such material. Send your request via e-mail to publications@nycap.rr.com

Copyright© 1987 - 2017 by the Public Employment Law Press.



___________________



N.B. From time to time a political ad or endorsement may appear in the sidebar of this Blog. NYPPL does not have any control over such posting.

_____________________

.