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March 10, 2021

Applicant denied accidental disability retirement benefits after failing to show that his disability was causally related to his accident

The Appellate Division introduced its consideration of this appeal by observing that the decision being appealed "was not made pursuant to an administrative hearing, and therefore the proceeding was improperly transferred to this Court" by the Supreme Court. The Appellate Division then decided to address the merits of the appeal "in the interest of judicial economy", citing Matter of DeMonico v Kelly, 49 AD3d 265.

An application for accidental disability retirement [ADR] benefits filed by a New York City firefighter [Applicant] was denied by the Board of Trustees of the New York City Fire Pension Fund [Trustees]. Applicant filed a CPLR Article 78 petition seeking court order vacating the Trustees' decision. The matter was, as noted earlier" improperly transferred to the Appellate Division. After considering the merits of Applicant's appeal the court opined that the Trustees' decision was supported by credible evidence, and was not arbitrary and capricious, citing Meyer v Board of Trustees of N.Y. City Fire Dept., Art.1-B Pension Fund, 90 NY2d 139.

The court said that the finding that Applicant's "disabling hip condition is causally related to a preexisting degenerative condition, rather than his fall while in the performance of his duties, is based upon credible medical evidence ... indicative of a chronic degenerative disease, not an acute injury." Thus the Appellate Division found that the Trustees "properly relied upon the [New York City Fire Pension Fund's] Medical Board's unanimous opinion as to causation, commenting that "in the event there is a conflict in the medical evidence regarding the cause of the disability [that determination] is within the sole province of the Medical Board to resolve."

In contrast, the court observed that Applicant failed to establish, as a matter of law,  that his disability was causally related to his accident, and in particular, that his asymptomatic preexisting degenerative disease was exacerbated by the accident as he claimed. Further, in the words of the Appellate Division, the Medical Board found there was no objective evidence to support that theory of causation alleged solely upon Applicant's subjective claims.

Unanimously confirming the decision of the Trustees', the Appellate Division dismissed Applicant's appeal.

Click HERE to access the full text of the Appellate Division's decision.


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