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8 N.J.A.R. 419

Police & Firemen's Retirement System, The Board of Trustees of; Holden, Ann v
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Citation: 8 N.J.A.R. 419
Decision Date: 1984
Agency: POLICE & FIREMEN'S RETIREMENT SYSTEM
Synopsis: Petitioner, the widow and beneficiary of a deceased police officer, applied to the Board of Trustees of the Police and Firemen's Retire- ment System for accidental death benefits. The Board denied those benefits on the ground that the application was untimely filed and that the decedent's death did not result from an accident met in the actual performance of duty. Petitioner requested a hearing and the matter was transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law. The administrative law judge assigned to the case found that peti- tioner's husband had suffered a heart attack in 1962, had been unable to work for approximately five months and had been treated for high blood pressure for five years before his death. Petitioner's husband died of a heart attack in March of 1976 after returning home from what decedent has described as a 'bad day,' which had included a response to an armed robbery in progress during which shots were fired. Approximately two weeks later, petitioner was told by a Police Department secretary that accidental death benefits could not be awarded because her husband had not died on duty. After receiving a judgment from a Workers' Compensation judge that her husband had died accidentally during the course of his employment, petitioner filed an application for accidental death benefits with the Pension Board in May of 1982. The administrative law judge noted that N.J.S.A. 43:16A-10 re- quires that before accidental death benefits may be recovered, a report of the accident occurring within active service must be filed within 60 days of the accident or within a period of time judged reasonable by the Board of Trustees. The judge concluded that the Board had acted properly in denying the application based upon this statute and concluded that the 'advice' given by the Department secretary could not bind the Board since she had not been authorized to act in its behalf. In addition, the judge determined that the decedent's underlying, preexisting, arteriosclerotic heart disease was primarily responsible for his death and that he had experienced no traumatic event on the day of his death to qualify him for accidental disability benefits. Upon review of this initial decision, the Board of Trustees adopted it as its own. Robert J. Murphy, Esq., for petitioner (Vaccaro, Osborne & Curran, attorneys) David Katzenstein, Deputy Attorney General, for respondent (Irwin Kimmelman, Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney) Initial Decision