Court Officer's Claim Slips up due to Misstep, not Wet Floor

12 Sep, 2022 Frank Ferreri

                               

New York, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – For some jobs, the risk of getting hurt while at work comes with the territory.

Such was the case in Matter of Young v. DiNapoli, No. 533976 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. App. Div. 09/01/22), where a court officer’s misstep was part of his work and not the result of a slippery floor.

The court officer slipped and fell at work, experiencing injuries as a result. He applied for ordinary disability retirement benefits, alleging that he was permanently incapacitated from performing his job duties.

The fall, for which there was no witnesses, occurred when the officer was responding to a radio call regarding an altercation outside of the courtside where the officer was on duty.

The officer’s applications were denied on the basis that his injuries were not the result of an accident within the meaning of New York law. A hearing officer upheld the denial, which was further upheld upon review.

The officer appealed to court.

Under New York workers’ compensation law, an injury-causing event is accidental when it is sudden, unexpected and not a risk of the work performed. On the other hand, an injury which occurs without an unexpected event as the result of activity undertaken in the performance of ordinary employment duties, considered in view of the particular employment in question, is not an accidental injury

The court upheld the earlier decisions ruling against the officer.

“As the [hearing officer] noted, there were inconsistencies in the accounts of the incident between [officer’s] testimony, his applications for benefits, and the reports submitted shortly after the incident,” the court wrote.

In particular, the court highlighted that:

  • The officer testified that, prior to falling, he was responding to a radio call, which he stated was within the purview of his regular job duties
  • The officer stated that he ran down a stairwell and exited through a door; as he turned left in the hallway, his "feet flew out from under [him]," and he landed on his back
  • The officer testified that, after the fall, he detected that the floor was slippery but not wet
  • In his applications for disability retirement benefits, the officer described the floor as a "slippery lobby floor; however, neither the workers' compensation benefits form nor the employer's report of the incident described the floor as being slippery
  • The workers' compensation benefits form stated that the officer tripped on his feet
  • The emergency room admission form reflected that the officer slipped and fell on a wet floor
  • A report written by a clinical neuropsychologist who assessed petitioner stated that "the lobby area was slick" and "was in climate [sic] weather"

The court agreed that falling while running to the scene of an incident was something that was part of the officer’s job.

“The [hearing officer] found that [the officer] was engaged in the performance of his ordinary employment duties when he fell and that the risk of falling while responding to a courthouse emergency is a risk inherent in his position as a court officer,” the court wrote. “Given the inconsistencies in the testimony and documentary evidence, the [hearing officer] rationally concluded that petitioner failed to prove that his fall was the result of anything other than a misstep.”

Forms, email updates, legal, regulatory, and compliance information from New York and 52 other jurisdictions across the U.S. can be found on WorkCompResearch.com.


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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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