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No Accidental Disability Retirement for PO

 Police Officer Gets Duty Disability Benefits, but no Accidental Disability Retirement:



A police officer's injury from helping a stranded motorist push a disabled vehicle out of a heavily trafficked roadway entitled him to performance of duty retirement benefits, but not accidental disability retirement benefits, a New York appellate court ruled.


Case: Hoehn v. New York State Comptroller, No. 518445, 11/06/2014, published.


Facts: Robern Hoehn worked as a police detective. As he was driving home from work after his shift in May 2010, he came upon a disabled vehicle causing a backup on a heavily traveled roadway.


Hoehn parked his car in the median, identified himself as a police officer and helped the stranded motorist push the disabled vehicle up a slight incline onto the median.


At one point, the car began to roll back down the incline, causing Hoehn to slip and lose his balance. He ruptured his Achilles tendon when this occurred.


Procedural History: Hoehn applied for performance of duty and accidental disability retirement benefits, but both of his applications were rejected.


A hearing officer upheld the retirement board decisions on both applications, and the state comptroller accepted and adopted the decision of the hearing officer.


Analysis: The Appellate Division's 3rd Department overturned the denial of Hoehn's performance of duty disability retirement application.


The court explained that the determination of whether an applicant was injured in the line of duty depends on whether he was performing job duties at the time of the injury.


In this case, Hoehn testified, without contradiction, that he had been instructed by the police department to respond to any type of emergency situation, whether or not he was on duty. He further testified that, given that it was rush hour on a well-traveled highway, it was necessary for him to render assistance to prevent an accident or an injury to a pedestrian.


Hoehn's supervisor corroborated this testimony, saying officers were instructed to assist the public at any time, and that the activity that Hoehn undertook would have been expected of him.


Accordingly, the court said the hearing officer's determination that Hoehn was not in service at the time of his injury was not supported by substantial evidence. Rather, the court said, Hoehn established that he was entitled to performance of duty disability retirement benefits.


However, the court said the hearing officer was correct in finding that Hoehn was not entitled to accidental disability retirement benefits.


The court reasoned that Hoehn's injury was not the result of "a sudden, fortuitous mischance," that was "unexpected, out of the ordinary, and injurious in impact" since the evidence established that pushing a disabled vehicle off the road was the type of activity normally undertaken by a police officer, and "a vehicle rolling back down an incline cannot be said to be unexpected."


Disposition: Annulled in part and remitted.


To read the decision, click here.

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