Police Officer Denied Disability Retirement Benefits for Slip & Fall

iceInjuries sustained while travelling to work may not be considered “in the line of duty” and, therefore, not entitle you to an accidental disability retirement. In order to qualify for an award of accidental disability retirement benefits, pursuant to G.L. c. 32 § 7(1), you must prove that you are permanently unable to perform the essential duties of your job as the proximate result of a personal injury sustained or hazard undergone “as a result of, and while in the performance of,” your duties.

In the case of Ramsey v. New Bedford Retirement Board, the Contributory Retirement Appeals Board denied a police officer retirement benefits because the Board found that the officer who slipped on ice at the police s station parking lot was not injured in the performance of his duties, as the law requires.

William Ramsey, aka Bill Ramsey, worked as a police officer for the City of New Bedford from January 1983 to January 14, 2009.

On January 13, 2009 at 11:55 p.m., Officer Ramsey was on his way into work at the New Bedford police station to report for roll call when he slipped on ice in the parking lot. He reported the incident immediately and worked his scheduled shift. The next morning he had pain in his neck, lower back and hip.

Officer Ramsey began collecting injured-on-duty benefits under G.L. c. 41 § 111F on January 14, 2009.

An orthopedic surgeon diagnosed “residuals of cervical strain and resolved low back strain.” He opined that Mr. Ramsey was not capable of returning to work because of his neck condition as a result of his fall on the ice.

On October 8, 2009, Mr. Ramsey had an independent medical evaluation which resulted in a determination that Ramsey had fully recovered and was able to return to work “at full capacity without restrictions.”

The police department ordered Mr. Ramsey back to work. Mr. Ramsey’s 111F benefits were discontinued on October 19, 2009. Mr. Ramsey started using sick leave. By agreement with the City, Mr. Ramsey’s 111F benefits were reinstated because he agreed to apply for accidental disability retirement benefits by April 25, 2010.

Mr. Ramsey filed an application for superannuation retirement benefits on April 24, 2010. He filed an application for accidental disability retirement benefits on April 25, 2010.

The Retirement Board denied Mr. Ramsey’s application for accidental disability benefits on June 30, 2010 because “your injury occurred when you were reporting for duty.”

The Retirement Board considered additional information submitted by Mr. Ramsey, and voted again to deny his application on May 3, 2011 without convening a medical panel because “incident occurred prior to the commencement of shift.”

Under the rules and regulations of the New Bedford Police Department, “A member shall report for duty properly clothed and equipped, at his regularly appointed time (15 minutes prior to the time set for roll call) and not withdraw or absent himself from duty without permission.”

The decision of the New Bedford Retirement Board to deny the application of William Ramsey for accidental disability retirement benefits without convening a medical panel was affirmed. The decision was affirmed because it was determined that Ramsey was not in the performance of his duties at the time of his injury. He was injured while he was on his way into work on January 13, 2009. He was not performing any duty of his job at the time of his injury.

In the instant case, Ramsey was injured while he was traveling from home, where he did not have an employment obligation, to the police station where he did have an employment obligation. Under the Namvar standard, he was not injured while in the performance of his duties. The outcome does not change because a police officer must respond to certain situations even when he is off-duty, or because a police officer must report for duty fifteen minutes before the time set for roll call, as Ramsey argued. He was not injured “during the actual performance of the duties that the employee has undertaken to perform on behalf of the public.” Therefore, his disability retirement application was denied.