Matter of Britt v. DiNapoli


          This case was a CPLR Article 78, to review a determination made by respondent, New  York State Comptroller denying petitioner’s application for performance of duty disability retirement benefits.

          Petitioner was a deputy sheriff, who was injured on the job apprehending a suspect in 1999.  He returned to work in 2000 and was then again injured on the job when punched in the lower spine.  The New York State and Local Employee’s Retirement System denied his disability retirement benefits believing his incapacity was not the result of workplace injuries.  A Hearing Officer affirmed this decision. 

          The Court decided that the Comptroller’s decision lacked substantial evidence.  Both parties agreed that the petitioner was permanently incapacitated from further work.  Petitioner needed to prove that these injuries were the “natural and proximate result of his workplace injuries.”  Petitioner had never suffered back problems until his first incident in 1999.  Petitioner’s chiropractor, orthopedic surgeon and neurosurgeon all agreed that petitioner’s disability was caused by these two work-related accidents. 

          Respondent’s orthopedic surgeon argued that petitioner’s disability was caused originally by degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis, rather than trauma.  But, the legal precept states that “when a preexisting dormant disease is aggravated by an accident, thereby causing a disability that did not previously exist, the accident is responsible for the ensuing disability.”

          Therefore the Court concluded that the Comptroller’s decision was without merit.  The determination was annulled and the petition granted.