July 30, 2021

Reviewing a determination of the State Comptroller denying petitioner's application for accidental disability retirement benefits

Proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 (transferred to this Court by order of the Supreme Court, entered in Albany County) to review a determination of respondent denying petitioner's application for accidental disability retirement benefits.

In September 2015, petitioner — a police detective — filed an application for accidental disability retirement benefits alleging that he was permanently disabled as a result of injuries to, among other things, his right hip and back that, in turn, were sustained while pursuing a fleeing suspect in October 2014. The New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System denied petitioner's application upon the ground that the incident did not constitute an accident within the meaning of Retirement and Social Security Law §363.

Petitioner acknowledged that, as a police officer, he had a duty to respond to an accident or a crime that he witnessed — even if he was "on [his] own personal time" — and the record reflects that, after the suspect fled the scene of the initial collision, petitioner immediately reported the event to his employer, sought assistance and gave chase. Petitioner acknowledged that "[p]ursuing and subduing a fleeing suspect is an ordinary employment duty of a police officer" (Matter of Quartucio v DiNapoli, 110 AD3d 1336, 1337 [2013] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]), and he agreed that such pursuits could entail "chasing [suspects] across all different types of terrain, uneven ground, jumping fences" and the like (see Matter of Sweeney v New York State Comptroller, 86 AD3d 893, 893-894 [2011]; Matter of Neidecker v DiNapoli, 82 AD3d 1483, 1484 [2011]).

Additionally, the particular hazard encountered by petitioner, i.e., the elevation change lying beyond the third fence, "could have been reasonably anticipated" (Matter of Stancarone v DiNapoli, 161 AD3d 144, 148-150 [2018]; see Matter of Scofield v DiNapoli, 125 AD3d 1086, 1087 [2015]), notwithstanding petitioner's testimony that vegetation partially obscured his view of the terrain.

Hence, even setting aside the inconsistencies between petitioner's testimony and the description of the incident as set forth in the relevant incident reports, which presented credibility issues for the Hearing Officer and respondent to resolve (see Matter of Verille v Gardner, 177 AD3d 1068, 1070 [2019]; Matter of Angelino v New York State Comptroller, 176 AD3d at 1379; see also Matter of Harris v New York State & Local Retirement Sys., 191 AD3d at 1086), substantial evidence supports respondent's finding that this incident was not an accident within the meaning of Retirement and Social Security Law § 363.

The full text of the Appellate Division's decision is posted on the Internet at: https://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_04409.htm

 

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