Articles Posted in Injured Police Officer/Cop

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A Nassau County police officer was injured when he slipped and fell on front steps covered with snow at a residence while investigating a burglar alarm. He successfully recovered $1.5 million following a jury trial on his claim against the homeowners under New York’s General Municipal Law (GML) 205-e which gives New York police officers the right to sue for line-of-duty injuries where a violation of a statute, ordinance, code, rule, or regulation gives rise to the officer’s injuries.  This law applies to all police officers, including members of the NYPD, and all members of police departments in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties.

At the time of his fall, the officer was investigating the source of an alarm that had been triggered at a home. In the week before the incident, the alarm had been triggered three separate times, and the police had been notified on each occasion. The alarm company had been instructed to contact the homeowners in the event that the alarm went off, or a relative in their absence. Thus, in this case, the homeowners clearly were on notice that the police had been responding to the alarms at the residence and reasonably could be expected to do so in the future if the alarm was triggered.  The snow had last fallen three days before the occurrence. There was no lighting around the home and the officer had to rely on his flashlight.  The owners claimed that their home was a summer residence and so they did not hire anyone to remove snow or ice on the property. Following a jury trial in favor of the officer, the homeowners appealed. Continue reading →

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A judge overturned an unsupported determination by the New York City Police Pension Fund Board of Trustees and granted a line-of-duty accidental disability retirement to an NYPD Sergeant who had suffered a stroke while searching for an armed murder suspect.

The trustees had only granted the sergeant an ordinary disability retirement following a 6 to 6 vote of the board. Under the law, when a police officer or firefighter suffers a heart attack or stroke there is a presumption that he or she be granted an accidental disability retirement. The medical board had found that the sergeant’s June 2010 stroke was caused by a congenital aneurysm that spontaneously ruptured. However, the court said the pension fund’s findings in this regard were “based on conjecture.”

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As part of the Year-End Tax and Spending Bill, Congress renewed and extended the Zadroga Act for the next 75 years. It essentially makes the program permanent.  In doing so, Congress has provided a combined $8.1 billion for the program, and fully-funded, for the next five years, the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.  The president signed the bill into law on December 18th.

Among other things, the WTC Heath Program will continue to provide vital health care and medical monitoring for 9/11 related illnesses for first responders and survivors. First responders and survivors who have moved out of the NYC metropolitan area will continue to receive necessary health care and medical monitoring.  NYC will continue to match up to 10% of the cost associated with the program.  Research into diagnosing and treating 9/11 related illness will continue as well.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund which was set to close in October 2016 will continue to provide needed compensation to first responders, survivors, and surviving families.  This fund has paid out over $1.44 billion to those who were injured or killed in the line of duty or have fallen in to various cancers and medical conditions.  The fund is expecting more claims as delayed onset of various cancers related to 9/11 exposure manifest themselves in the coming years.

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A jury ordered Badger Guns, one of the country’s most notorious firearms dealers, to pay $5.73 million for negligence in the 2009 shootings of police officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch.  The officers suffered catastrophic injuries when they were brutally shot in the line of duty.

The landmark case held the firearms retailer responsible for disregarding the potential harm of its guns sales.  It is the first verdict of its kind in the nation and sends a strong message that reckless gun dealers will be held accountable and brought to justice.  The officers had to overcome a federal law passed in 2005 which granted broad civil immunity to gun manufacturers and dealers.  However, there are several exceptions.  Among these is that a gun dealer will be held liable for “negligent entrustment” of a firearm to a suspect buyer.  It was this exception upon which the jury relied in reaching its verdict, which included $750,000 in punitive damages.

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Two recent New York court decisions demonstrate situations in which police officers are and are not able to sue for damages for a line-of-duty injury.

In Alvarado v. Ortiz, decided by the New York County Supreme Court, the plaintiff was NYPD Officer Alvarado who was injured in a motor vehicle accident while in duty, driving to retrieve a bullet proof vest from an NYPD shooting range.  Officer Alvarado was a passenger in a New York Police Department Vehicle driven by her partner when it was hit from behind by defendant Mr. Ortiz.  She sustained a serious injury to her neck in the collision.

In certain line-of-duty accidents, officers are prohibited from bringing a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent party.  This is due to the “firefighters rule” which prevents firefighters and police officers from recovering damages in negligence lawsuits where the injury arises out of the type of risk they assume as part of their duties.  The basis for the rule is that public safety officers such as firefighters and police officers knowingly take on a dangerous profession, and willingly assume the risks associated with those dangers, so the public should not be held liable for injuries that are sustained while the officers are carrying out that function.

In New York, there are exceptions to the firefighters rule written into the General Municipal Law § 205. That section allows officers who are injured in the line-of-duty to sue defendants who violate a statute.  To win a case on that basis, the plaintiff needs to show that firstly, a law was violated, secondly, that the violation led “directly or indirectly” to the injury, and finally that the violation was due to the defendant’s omission, neglect, or willful or culpable conduct.

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A New York appeals court has held that a New York City Police Department officer injured when pursuing a suspect on foot across City land can proceed with his line-of-duty injury lawsuit against The City of New York, the owner of the land.

Sergeant Donald Mulham was chasing a suspect across a vacant City lot strewn with debris including crates, wood, sticks, and radios, when he sought to traverse a piece of plywood on the ground.  His foot pierced through the plywood, causing career-ending injuries to his right knee and shoulder.  Reversing the decision of the Richmond County Supreme Court, the Appellate Division, Second Department, held on October 16, 2013 that a violation of a city health code provision was sufficient basis for the lawsuit.

Mulham brought his claim against the City pursuant to General Municipal Law §205-e which allows for a cause of action for a police officer injured in the line-of-duty by another’s failure to follow “any of the statutes, ordinances, rules, orders and requirements of the federal, state, county, village, town or city governments.”

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The federal death benefit under the Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB) Program for our heroes who die or are killed in the line of duty death has been increased to $339,310 for 2015 (including those deaths occurring on or after October 1, 2014).  PSOB programs provide death and education benefits to survivors of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders, as well as disability benefits to those catastrophically injured in the line of duty.

Line of duty death benefits are payable to eligible survivors (including spouses, domestic partners, children, or parents).  Deaths from heart attacks and strokes are presumed to have occurred in the line of duty under the expanded Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act.  Spouses and children of fallen public safety officers are also eligible for financial support for college and higher education costs.  Additionally, a disability benefit is payable to public safety officers injured in the line of duty and permanently prevented from performing any gainful work in the future.

You can access additional information concerning the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Public Safety Officer Benefits Programs by clicking here: https://www.psob.gov

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