Like some other states, New York’s workers’ compensation system grants public safety officers a higher disability retirement if the disability is caused by an “accident.” New York courts have defined an accident as a “sudden, fortuitous mischance, unexpected, out of the ordinary, and injurious in impact.”
Raymond Baron is a firefighter with Village of Mamaroneck Fire Department. On November 11, 2002, Baron responded to a structure fire. As he was preparing to enter the building, Baron noted a misplaced supply hose and, with no one available to assist him, got on his hands and knees and moved the hose, which weighed between 100 and 150 pounds, approximately five feet to its proper position.
Baron began experiencing health problems in the days that ensued and, after his physician referred him to a cardiologist, Baron ultimately required quintuple bypass surgery and was rendered permanently disabled. Baron filed an application for an “accidental” disability as well as normal performance of duty disability retirement benefits. Through the administrative process, Baron’s application for normal retirement benefits were granted and his request for the additional accidental disability benefits was denied.
The Appellate Division of New York Supreme Court upheld the denial of Baron’s accidental disability application. The Court reasoned that “Baron’s job description calls for physical stamina and enumerates laying and connecting hose lines as examples of Baron’s duties. As such, we find that substantial evidence supports the determination that Baron was injured in the course of performing a task that is inherent in a firefighter’s regular duties and that an accident did not occur.”
Baron v. DiNapoli, 869 N.Y.S.2d 670 (N.Y.A.D. 2008).
This article appears in the February 2009 issue