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12 N.J.A.R. 277

Public Employees' Retirement System, Bd. of Trustees; Duignan, William F. v
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Citation: 12 N.J.A.R. 277
Decision Date: 1987
Agency: PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM
Synopsis: Petitioner appealed the denial by the Board of Trustees of the Public Employees' Retirement System of his application for accidental disability retirement benefits. The matter was transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing. Petitioner, a school custodian, was putting away a broom when it struck him in the eye. As a result, he suffered a detached retina. He continues to have impaired vision and related problems. Petitioner claimed he was thus permanently and totally disabled. The administrative law judge assigned to the case found that petitioner was disabled and that the accident was a traumatic event within the meaning of the accidental disability statute, N.J.S.A. 43:15A-43. Being hit in the eye by a broom constituted a great rush of force in this case because the bristles struck the eyeball with suffi- cient force to cause permanent damage. Upon review, this initial decision was rejected by the Board. The Board concluded that being struck by a broom was not a traumatic event. The administrative law judge erred by focusing on the injury sustained rather than the event itself. There was no rush of force or uncontrollable power involved in the contact between petitioner's eye and the bristles of the broom. Moreover, the Board said petitioner could not be eligible for accidental disability because he did not apply for such benefits before age 65. The Appellate Division reversed and remanded, directing the Board to grant petitioner accidental disability benefits. Alfred G. Osterweil, Esq., for petitioner Patrice M. Cormell, Deputy Attorney General, for respondent (W. Cary Edwards, Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney)
Citation Tracker rejected-Bd. of Trustees; reversed & remanded-223 N.J. Super. 208 (App. Div. 1988) [Updated through 1991]