An administrative decision annulled and remanded for a new hearing based on a judicial finding that it is “affected by errors of law”
DeMaio v DiNapoli, 2016 NY Slip Op 02505, Appellate Division, Third Department
VHB, a correction officer, applied for performance of duty disability retirement benefits alleging that he was injured while escorting an inmate away from an altercation between the inmate and another correction officer. The application was initially denied by the Retirement System and VHB requested a hearing and redetermination.
Following the hearing, the Hearing Officer upheld the initial denial of VHB’s application for duty disability retirement, concluding that VHB had not meet his burden of proof of establishing each and every element necessary to sustain his application and that the initial determination was supported by substantial evidence. The Comptroller accepted the findings and conclusions of the Hearing Officer and VHB initiated a CPLR Article 78 proceeding.
The Appellate Division said that the Hearing Officer's determination, which was adopted by the Comptroller, was affected by errors of law.
The court explained that the Hearing Officer had improperly noted that the applicable standard of review was whether the initial determination was "supported by substantial evidence." Rather than a review of the initial determination, the Appellate Division said that such a hearing is conducted to allow the Comptroller to make a “redetermination” with “the same powers upon such hearing as upon the original application.”
In addition, said the court, “the Hearing Officer's determination misstated the applicable burden.” VHB was required to establish that he is incapacitated from performing his work-related duties “as the natural and proximate result of an injury, sustained in the performance . . . of his or her duties by, or as the natural and proximate result of any act of any inmate” [emphasis supplied by the court].
Further, the Appellate Division said it has repeatedly held that the relevant statute, Retirement and Social Security Law §607-c[a],requires that an applicant for duty disability retirement benefits demonstrate that his or her injuries were “caused by direct interaction with an inmate … and have specified that such injuries must be caused by some ‘affirmative act on the part of the inmate’ … there is no legal support for the Hearing Officer's enhancement of such burden by indicating that VHB was required to demonstrate "an intentional overt act of an inmate” (emphasis supplied by the court).
Accordingly, the court annulled the Comptroller’s determination and remanded the matter to the Comptroller for a new hearing.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: