Retirement Benefits Denied Due to Substantial Evidence Presented by New York State

In the Matter of Stephen C. Caruana v. Thomas P. DiNapoli, as Comptroller of the State of New York, et al..

Petitioner, Stephen C. Caruana, sought to review a decision of Respondent which denied his application for accidental disability retirement benefits.

In March 2006, Petitioner, a police officer, applied for accidental disability retirement benefits. Caruana claimed that he was permanently incapacitated due to neck and back injuries that were a result of three work-related incidents. Initially, his application was denied and petitioner requested a redetermination, therefore, a hearing was held. The Hearing Officer concluded that Petitioner “…failed to establish that such incapacity was caused by either 1987 incident or the 2003 incident, resulting in the denial of his application, an Article 78 followed.

The Appellate Division stated that the Petitioner has the burden of proving that his injuries were the results of the alleged incidents and in deciding whether Petitioner has fulfilled this burden, Respondent is entitled to produce “…conflicting medical evidence and to credit the opinion of one expert…” over the other.

In 2007, Petitioner had an orthopedic surgeon perform a spinal fusion surgery who agreed that Caruana condition was related to the 1987 incident and a chiropractor who agreed that his disability is related to the 1987 and 2003 incidents. Respondents brought in a board certified surgeon, Austin Leve, to examine Petitioner and review his medical records in August 2006. Leve concluded that Caruana’s injuries were not significant enough of an injury to permanently incapacitate him.

The court concluded that Respondent’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. Therefore the decision was confirmed, without costs and the petition is dismissed.

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