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December 26, 2023

Application for Accidental Disability Retirement benefits rejected as the injury suffered was not the result of an accident within the meaning of the Retirement and Social Security Law

A police officer [Petitioner] filed an application for Accidental Disability Retirement [ADR] benefits based on an injury Petitioner suffered in the course of his responding to an emergency. Petitioner testified that he and another police officer responded to the incident and he attempted to "kick in the interior door" of a bedroom in which a "suicidal woman" had reportedly locked herself.

The Retirement System determined that the incident giving rise to Petitioner's injuries "did not constitute an accident within the meaning of Retirement and Social Security Law §363." A Hearing Officer [HO] affirmed the Retirement System's denial of the Petitioner's application for ADR. 

In response to Petitioner's appeal of the HO's decision, the Retirement System's Executive Deputy Comptroller sustained the HO's findings and determination. Petitioner then initiated a CPLR Article 78 challenging the rejection of his application for ADR.

Observing that "It was petitioner's burden to 'demonstrat[e] that his disability arose out of an accident as defined by the Retirement and Social Security Law, and [the Retirement System's] determination in that regard will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence'", the Appellate Division dismissed Petitioner's appeal of the Retirement System's denial of his application for ADR.

The Appellate Division noted that Petitioner "explained that he had previously executed similar maneuvers and acknowledged that he was [so] acting 'in the course of [his] duties'". The other responding officer similarly testified that Petitioner's actions were within the duties of a police officer and that he had observed Petitioner kick down doors in the past. Further, the record before the Appellate Division included a written description of Petitioner's job duties, that indicated police officers were required to "perform rescue operations" and "be able to force entrance through barriers."

As there was no evidence of any observed defect in the door at issue and no evidence was submitted to support Petitioner's speculation that the door may have blocked, the Appellate Division sustained the Retirement System's determination. The court found that substantial evidence supported the Retirement System's determination that Petitioner's injuries "occurred in the performance of his ordinary employment duties as a police officer and there was no precipitating event that was not a risk of the work performed."

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision posted on the Internet.

 

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