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No Benefits for Guard's Fall from Desk

 No Duty Disability Benefits for Guard who Fell Getting Up from Desk:



A prison guard who twice hurt himself when he fell while trying to get up from his desk in response to what he thought were inmate emergencies was not entitled to duty disability benefits for his injuries, a New York appellate court ruled.


Case: Matter of Palmateer v. DiNapoli, No. 517658, 05/08/2014, published.


Facts: Lawrence Palmateer III worked as a corrections officer. While seated at a desk at work in August 2007, he claimed he heard an inmate cry out for help.


As he scrambled to his feet, he alleged his right knee gave out and he fell, injuring both knees.


Palmateer suffered another fall – again allegedly occasioned by his right knee giving out underneath him – as he rose to respond to what he thought was an inmate fight in the shower room in July 2009.


Procedural History: Palmateer filed a claim for duty disability retirement benefits, asserting that he was permanently incapacitated by his knee injuries from both falls.


The board of trustees of the state retirement system denied his claim and the state comptroller adopted this decision.


Analysis: The Appellate Division's 3rd Department explained that Palmateer bore the burden of demonstrating that his incapacity was the natural and proximate result of "an act of any inmate" to establish his entitlement to the benefits he sought.


The court noted that establishing exactly what this would entail was an issue of first impression for correction officers employed by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, but the court had previously interpreted an identical requirement found in Retirement and Social Security Law Section 607-c, which provides duty disability benefits for county-employed correction officers.


The court had found that Section 607-c requires a showing that the petitioner's injuries were "caused by direct interaction with an inmate," and the court said the same standard should apply to Palmateer.


The court rejected Palmateer's argument that the fact he thought he was responding to a potential emergency involving inmates made his injuries the natural and proximate result of an act of an inmate.


"Any connection between his injuries and the inmate conduct here is too attenuated to form a basis for an award of performance of duty disability retirement benefits," the court said.


Disposition: Confirmed.


To read the decision, click here.


Source: WorkCompCentral

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