Albany, NY – An Orangetown police officer appealed the state’s denial of disability benefits for injuries he got while rescuing a family during Superstorm Sandy on Tuesday.
Orangetown Police Officer James Kelly was injured in the line duty in October of 2012 as he tried to rescue a family trapped in its collapsing Rockland County home.
At the time of his injury, one resident of the home was already dead, and rescue crews were delayed in responding to the residence because of the post-storm conditions in the area, so Officer Kelly did what was necessary to prevent additional loss of life. He was hurt in the process.
A lower court upheld the state's denial of his application for accidental disability retirement, or ADR, saying Officer Kelly's injuries were a result of "risks inherent to being a police officer," according to the New York Daily News.
In appealing that ruling, Officer Kelly’s attorney, Joseph Dougherty, told the seven-member Court of Appeals that Officer Kelly was never trained to do rescue work like that which was required after the massive hurricane devastated the coastal regions of New York and New Jersey, Lohud.com reported.
Dougherty argued that unlike firefighters and other emergency responders, Officer Kelly hadn't been trained for the kinds of emergency rescues police encountered in the wake of the hurricane. Therefore, the falling rafter that injured Officer Kelly wasn't a "foreseeable" event.
"My client was never asked to do ... what he had to do that day," Dougherty said.
Officer Kelly suffered shoulder and neck injuries from being hit by a falling rafter as he removed debris off injured residents of the home.
Dougherty argued that Officer Kelly was eligible for enhanced pension benefits because he was injured as the result of an on-duty accident.
Officer Kelly applied for accidental disability retirement after he was injured, but the state of New York denied his disability application, and a lower court upheld the denial.
A decision in the case wasn’t expected until later in 2018.
Superstorm Sandy came ashore in northern New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, as the powerful hurricane made its way up the East Coast.