Matter of Charles M. Hulse v Thomas DiNapoli, as State Comptroller

In 2001, petitioner, a 20-year old police officer for the Town of Ramapo Police Department, injured his back while lifting a large person to perform CPR. Petitioner was out of work for a month following this incident due to a herniated lumbar disc. In 2003, petitioner injured his shoulder while engaged in a training program for bike patrol. Petitioner was participating in an exercise in proper technique for avoiding injury when falling off a bicycle. Petitioner was unable to return to full duty due to this injury and was only able to return to work part time in a light duty capacity.

Petitioner applied for accidental disability retirement benefits and performance of duty retirement benefits and was denied. The Hearing Officer upheld the denials and respondent adopted the decision. Petitioner then commenced this Article 78 proceeding to review the determination.

Since an accident in this context must be the result of a completely unforseeable event during the performance on routine duties, petitioner’s shoulder injury would not fall under this definition. Petitioner was participating in a training exercise that was part of his ordinary duties that involved risks and the manner in which he was injured was not unexpected or unforeseeable. Since substantial evidence exists to support respondent’s determination, the Court will not disturb it.

In regards to petitioner’s application to performance of duty retirement benefits for both injuries, petitioner failed to prove that he was permanently disabled from the performance of his duties. Though petitioner’s doctor concluded that his prognosis was “poor” for a full recovery from his shoulder injury, the respondent’s doctors provided evidence that a reasonably safe surgical procedure would relieve his pain and restore full function to his shoulder. Since respondent has the exclusive authority to resolve conflicts in medical opinion and the respondent’s doctor’s opinion was rationally based on the examination of petitioner, the Court agreed with respondent’s decision.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court confirmed the determination, without costs, and dismissed the petitioner.

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