Matter of Enide St. Lois v New York City Employees’ Retirement System and the City of New York

In this Article 78 case, petitioner, a 42-year-old pediatric Registered Nurse, sought a judgment annulling the Board of Trustees (Pension Board) for New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) which denied her application for disability retirement. Petitioner sustained on-the-job injuries to her neck and right shoulder area in 2004. She returned to work in 2006 but then went back on sick leave later that year. She was then terminated due to her inability to perform her duties as a staff nurse. Petitioner then applied to NYCERS for disability retirement. The Medical Board recommended denial of her application to the Pension board which adopted the recommendation. Petitioner then submitted a renewed application with additional medical reports from four physicians. The Medical Board and Pension Board again denied petitioner’s application claiming that the evidence did not prove that petitioner was disabled from performing her work duties. Petitioner then commenced this Article 78 proceeding.

As in all Article 78 proceeding, the Court can only determine whether the action of an agency had a rational basis or was arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the Medical Board’s recommendation lacked a rational basis. The report never provided any explanation for the decision to deny petitioner’s application. Additionally, the Medical Board ignored evidence presented by both petitioner’s doctors and their own doctors that indicated petitioner had lost sensation in her right hand and had limited range of motion in her spine which would clearly prevent her from performing the physical duties of her job. The Medical Board also only considered tests and reports that supported the denial and ignored any evidence to the contrary. Therefore, the Medical Board and the Pension Board’s determination was unsupported by any credible evidence and must be annulled.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition, annulled the denial of petitioner’s application for disability retirement, remanded the instant matter to the New York City Employees’ Retirement System for a new medical report and findings, and ordered a new determination by the Pension Board.

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