Firefighter's cardiac condition doesn't extinguish postretirement benefits
Case name: LeFever v. City of Cortland Fire Dept., et al., No. 505244 (N.Y. App. Div. 10/01/09).
The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division affirmed the Workers' Compensation Board's ruling that a firefighter with work-related right elbow and left upper extremity injuries who had to retire due to a nonwork-related cardiac condition did not voluntarily withdraw from the labor market.
What it means:
In New York, retirement is not voluntary if a compensable permanent partial disability contributed to the firefighter's decision to retire, even if a noncompensable condition also played a significant role in that decision.
Summary: A firefighter suffered a compensable injury to his right elbow. His claim was later modified to include an injury to his left upper extremity and elbow, which was ultimately classified as a permanent partial disability. In the interim, the firefighter had stopped working after suffering a cardiac arrest that was unrelated to his work duties. His cardiac condition required the implantation of a defibrillator which disqualified him from performing his work duties, and accordingly he retired.
The firefighter argued that the work-related left upper extremity injury affected his decision to retire because his left elbow affected his ability to work prior to his cardiac arrest. He received performance of duty disability retirement benefits based upon both his cardiac condition and arm injuries.
His treating surgeon also testified that additional surgery would likely be required on his elbow and that the condition would progressively worsen. The court found substantial support for the Workers' Compensation Board's finding that the firefighter's decision to retire was partially based on his compensable disability and therefore was not voluntary.
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December 10, 2009
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