Firefighter Assisting At Ground Zero Entitled To Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Danny Levy, a member of the Plainview, New York Fire Department, volunteered on his own at Ground Zero in New York City on September 11, 2001. On September 12, 2001, Levy reported to the Plainview fire house where the Fire Chief requested volunteers to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Levy later submitted to the City of New York a volunteer firefighters’ claim for benefits based upon injuries sustained while assisting the Fire Department of New York at Ground Zero.

The New York Workers’ Compensation Board awarded Levy benefits, finding that the Plainview Fire Department and the City of New York shared “dual liability” for Levy’s injuries on the grounds that Levy’s activities were directed and controlled by both entities. The City appealed the Board’s decision.

An appeals court turned away the City’s appeal. The Court based its decision on a state statute governing what occurs when a firefighter from one agency volunteers to assist another agency. Under the statute, if the volunteer’s services are accepted, “the volunteer shall then be entitled to all powers, rights, privileges and immunities granted by law to volunteer firefighters during the time such services are rendered, in the same manner and to the same extent as if the volunteer were a volunteer member of the fire company or fire department which he or she is assisting, including benefits under the volunteer firefighters’ benefit law.”

The Court found that Levy, “along with others, volunteered and were authorized to use Plainview Fire Department’s gear and equipment. Levy testified that over the course of the next two weeks, he reported to the City’s headquarters with other Plainview firefighters who volunteered and that their activities were then directed and controlled by the City of New York. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s factual conclusions regarding claimant’s dual employment, and that determination will not be set aside, even though the record could support a contrary conclusion.”

Levy v. Plainview Fire Dept., 934 N.Y.S.2s 242 (N.Y. A.D. 3 Dept. 2011).