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A police officer who sustained injuries to both of his wrists while on the job may be entitled to disability retirement benefits, a three-judge appellate court panel held on Thursday.
In Matter of Angelino v. New York State Comptroller, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York in Albany vacated a hearing officer’s finding that the officer’s accidents did not arise out of the normal scope of employment or render him permanently incapacitated.
Police Officer Joseph Angelino sustained injuries to both of his wrists while on duty. In September 2012, he injured his right wrist when he tripped on a patch of grass and tried to stop his fall with a fence post while pursuing a suspect on foot. A year later, he injured his left wrist when a floor collapsed beneath him. He alleged that he is permanently incapacitated as a result of the injuries and filed an application for accidental disability retirement benefits.
A hearing officer found that his 2012 incident was not an accident and that he failed to show he was permanently disabled from the 2013 accident and denied his application. The New York State Comptroller adopted the hearing officer’s findings and Mr. Angelino appealed.
The appellate court held that pursuing a fleeing suspect was an “ordinary employment duty” of a police officer and that it could rationally conclude that he was “acting within the scope of his duty and that there was no sudden, unexpected event” that caused his 2012 injury.
With regard to his 2013 injury, the appellate court noted that Mr. Angelino had undergone surgery on his left wrist in 2015 but continued to have pain despite steroid injections, physical therapy and the use of anti-inflammatory and nerve-blocking medications. His treating physician testified that be believed Mr. Angelino was no longer able to perform his duties as a police officer because of his left wrist injury. An independent medical examiner testifying on the behalf of the state retirement system concluded that he was not permanently disabled. However, the court noted that the independent examiner did not review Mr. Angelino’s medical history prior to his 2015 surgery, and concluded that as a result the comptroller “relied on an expert opinion that was not founded upon a review of all the relevant facts.”
The court, therefore, annulled the comptroller’s determination and remanded the decision.
An appeals court in Virginia on Tuesday ruled that a police officer’s slip on wet grass was not compensable, confirming an earlier ruling that deemed her injury as the cause of an “Act of God” in accordance with state workers compensation law.