Workers' compensation award for delayed claim by 9/11 responder upheld

In Regan v. City of Hornell Police Department, the Third Department of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, upheld an award of workers' compensation benefits to a police officer for the City of Hornell, New York, who assisted rescue and recovery workers and volunteers at the World Trade Center site in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Many years later the officer sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The appeals court agreed with a finding by the Workers' Compensation Board that medical evidence supported the conclusion that the officer's mental condition was a work-related injury caused by his experiences at ground zero.

Background and procedural history

After the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the officer was sent to New York City for a period of six days to provide assistance during the rescue and recovery operations at ground zero.

In March 2010, the officer was arrested on drunk-driving charges. He was employed at that time as a police officer for the City of Geneva, New York. Shortly after the arrest, the officer resigned from the Geneva Police Department.

In April 2010, the officer began a course of mental health treatment. The officer subsequently filed an application for workers' compensation benefits for a work-related injury stemming from the time he spent at the World Trade Center.

A workers' compensation law judge determined that the officer had in fact sustained an occupational disease - post-traumatic stress disorder and depression - but ruled that the date of disablement was April 2010, when the officer first sought medical treatment.

On appeal, the Workers' Compensation Board reversed. While agreeing that the date of disablement was April 2010, the Board determined that the officer's accidental injury occurred on September 17, 2001, while he was still employed with the Hornell Police Department.

The Board also found that the claim was timely filed and complied with the notice requirements under Article 8-A of the New York Workers' Compensation Law, a law enacted in 2013 to provide certain rights and benefits to rescue, recovery, clean-up workers and volunteers who later became ill with conditions caused by their work at the ground zero site.

Article 8-A extended and increased workers' compensation eligibility and benefits for the World Trade Center workers. The law reopened the World Trade Center Registry and reopened previously time-barred World Trade Center claims.

The City of Hornell Police Department appealed the Board's ruling.

The decision by the appeals court

The appeals court upheld the Board's decision. A psychiatrist who evaluated the officer testified that the officer's injury was causally related to his experiences at the World Trade Center site and that the officer's symptoms were consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The appeals court also determined that Article 8-A applied the officer's claim. Undisputed testimony established that he provided direct support and assistance to the first responders while they were engaged in rescue and recovery operations. The officer performed duties related to perimeter containment. He helped control which individuals came and left the site and escorted people to the site. The officer also performed duties related to "transports." He brought materials, equipment and personnel to the rescue and recovery workers and volunteers.

Consult an attorney

Individuals seeking to pursue workers' compensation claims should consult the services of an attorney experienced in these matters to ensure that their rights are fully protected.