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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Police Officer Allowed to Fight Denial of Disability Benefits in Court of Appeals

If you are a uniform civil service member, is an agency denial of disability benefits final?

When it comes to New York City police, firefighters and other uniform civil service members, those injured on the job are usually entitled to some type of disability benefit.  These benefits come in grades and trouble often arises when a civil servant requests that his or her disability benefits be increased in some way.  One New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer has recently been involved in just this type of litigation.  

In 2008, a fire erupted in a New York City apartment building.  Officer Robert Pastalove arrived at the scene and immediately ran into the burning building to alert the occupants.  The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) arrived and as Pastalove exited the building he was instructed to move his car.  As he walked over to his car, two hoses laid out by firefighters unexpectedly filled up with water, causing Pastalove to trip.  He sustained injuries to his hand and wrist as a result of the fall.  

Pastalove applied for and was granted ordinary disability benefits from the NYPD.  After some time, he applied for a type of enhanced benefits from the department.  The New York City Police Pension Fund Board of Trustees took a vote and tied.  Following standard procedure, the tied vote caused the Board to deny Pastalove’s request.  

Pastalove then brought an Article 78 proceeding in the Manhattan Supreme Court.  The court denied the petition and the denial was affirmed by the Appellate Division First Department.  But, the court later granted Pastalove leave to appeal the First Department’s decision to the New York State Court of Appeals.  One justice of the Appellate Division noted that a decision like this could cause our first responders to be more reluctant to do their jobs as they might fear being injured and left without enhanced benefits.  It will be interesting to see whether the Court of Appeals agrees with this assessment.

If you are a police officer, firefighter or any other type of civil service worker, and were injured on the job, you might be entitled to disability benefits.  The New York City attorneys at the Seelig Law Offices regularly fight for the rights of injured workers.  Contact us by calling (212)766-0600 for a free consultation today.

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