June 15, 2018

An adminsitrative tribunal may not rely on evidence not in the record in arriving at its decision


An adminsitrative tribunal may not rely on evidence not in the record in arriving at its decision
Kaplan v New York City Tr. Auth., 2018 NY Slip Op 04068, Appellate Division, Third Department

It is "black letter law" that all administrative agencies must render decisions based on the evidence contained in the record pertaining to the particular case before it.

In this case the Workers' Compensation Board [Board] ruled that the employee's death did not arise out of and in the course of his employment* and denied his survivor's [Claimant] application for workers' compensation death benefits.

The Appellate Division, noting that as required of every administrative agency, inistrative agency, the Board must render decisions based on the evidence contained in the record pertaining to the particular case before it said that here the Board relied on medical records "apparently contained in the case file for a separate claim" filed by decedent based on a 2014 fall at work and that one page is the only medical record from 2014 that was included in the current record.

The Board, said the court, relied heavily upon medical records contained in the case file for the 2014 claim although the employer did not request that the Board rely on those 2014 records. Further was the procedure for introducing additional evidence into the administrative appeal that was not before the Workers' Compensation Law Judge was not complied with and the Board's rule provides that, if that procedure is not followed, the Board "will not" consider such new evidence.

The Appellate Division said that Claimant was prejudiced because she was not on notice  until she received the Board decision that the Board would rely on documents from another case file.

The employer contended that 2014 medical reports cannot be objectionable because they accurately reflect the treatment rendered. The court said it could not verify that claim without reviewing those reports.

The Appellate Division also rejected the employer's argument "that no response to the medical records would change the strength of either side's argument"  as constituting "mere speculation" and had those records been properly introduced, either party "may have chosen to submit additional medical records reflecting on decedent's medical treatment from November 2014 until his death in July 2015 had the parties been on notice that this period of treatment would be at issue."

Finally, the court said it could not assume that the Board would have reached the same decision had it not considered the medical records from the earlier case file in view of the fact that "[t]he Board referred to more than one of those medical records, indicated that it considered at least 27 pages and quoted at length from one 2014 document that it found to be 'most telling with respect to the cause of the decedent's death,'" noting that "[i]n one specific finding, the Board stated that any presumption of compensability was rebutted by Brief's medical opinion and the medical evidence in the case file associated with the other claim."

Finding that the Board improperly relied upon documents outside the record, which were not before Court for its review, the Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court's ruling dismissing Claimant's appeal and remitted the matter to the Board "for further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's decision."

* To be compensable under the Workers' Compensation Law, an accidental injury must arise both out of and in the course of employment. In situations where there an unwitnessed or unexplained death occurs during the course of employment is involved, the claimant is relieved of the obligation to submit prima facie medical evidence of a causal relationship but that presumption "may be rebutted if substantial evidence demonstrates that the death was not work related."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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