Friday, January 08, 2016

Injuries sustained by a trainee during a training exercise ruled the result of an accident for the purposes of claiming eligibility for accidental disability retirement benefits


Injuries sustained by a trainee during a training exercise ruled the result of an accident for the purposes of claiming eligibility for accidental disability retirement benefits
Gakhal v Kelly, 2016 NY Slip Op 00003, Appellate Division, First Department

Supreme Court dismissed Paramjit Gakhal’s Article 78 petition seeking an order annulling the NYC Police Pension Fund’s determination rejecting her application for accidental disability retirement (ADR) benefits.

The Appellate Division, Judge Sweeny dissenting,* reversed the Supreme Court’s determination “on the law” and remanded the matter to the Fund for a “new determination” consistent with the majority’s decision.

Gakhal’s injury occurred on the first day of her learning to ride a motor scooter as part of her normal police training. She lost control of the scooter while navigating on a motor scooter obstacle course and “crashed into a metal barrier at a speed of 40 miles per hour.” The barrier and scooter then both fell on top of Gakhal.

The Appellate Division, noting that an accident for the purposes of claiming eligibility for ADR is defined as a "sudden, fortuitous mischance, unexpected, out of the ordinary, and injurious in impact," and that the commanding officer of the training unit characterized the incident as "unexpected," concluded that Gakhal’s injury was the result of an event that qualified her for ADR benefits.

The court, citing Becker v Ward, 169 AD2d 453, explained that while injuries sustained during routine training exercises typically may not qualify for ADR benefits, ruled that in Gakhal’s case the loss of control of the scooter she was operating, coupled with the scooter's acceleration, “appears to have ‘been sudden and out of the ordinary,’” and remanded the matter to the Fund for a “new determination” consistent with the majority’s decision.

* Judge Sweeny, in his dissent, said “although the commanding officer's subjective observation that the incident was ‘unexpected’ is favorable for [Gakhal], there is credible objective evidence that the incident was not an ‘accident’” and opined that “the Board's determination must stand.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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