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July 07, 2017

Hearsay may constitute "substantial evidence" supporting the tribunal's findings in an administrative hearing



Hearsay may constitute "substantial evidence" supporting the tribunal's findings in an administrative hearing
2017 NY Slip Op 05147, Appellate Division, Third Department

An employee [Employee] at a residential facility operated by the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities [OPWDD] was alleged to have physically abused a resident.

An investigator conducted interviews of several witnesses and found the report of physical abuse to be substantiated. After a hearing, Employee's request that report be amended to unsubstantiated and that the report be sealed was rejected and a final determination sustaining the report of physical abuse was made.

Employee then commenced a CPLR article 78 proceeding challenging the determination which was made following an administrative hearing as unsupported by substantial evidence. Supreme Court transferred the proceeding to the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division found that the final determination was supported by substantial evidence. Addressing Employee's contention that the hearsay statements in the record cannot constitute substantial evidence, the Appellate Division said that "it is well established that, in an administrative hearing, hearsay is admissible and may support a finding of substantial evidence."

Citing Matter of Today's Lounge of Oneonta, Inc. v New York State Liq. Auth., 103 AD3d 1082, the court commented that hearsay evidence may, "under appropriate circumstances, form the sole basis of an agency's determination, unless the hearsay evidence is seriously controverted."

In this instance, said the court, the corroborated description of the incident by the eyewitness was only controverted by Employee's denial.  Consequently, the corroborated description by the eyewitness could be viewed as not seriously controverted and "sufficiently reliable" so as to constitute substantial evidence.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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