In reversing the dismissal of an Article 78 proceeding which sought to annul the denial of petitioner’s application for World Trade Center (WTC) disability benefits, the First Department determined the “World Trace Center presumption” had not been rebutted by the respondents:
Once a petitioner establishes that he worked the requisite number of hours at the site, the “World Trade Center presumption” places the burden on the respondents to show that the petitioner’s qualifying injury was not incurred in the line of duty … . If a determination is made, even postretirement, that the applicant is disabled by a qualifying WTC condition, it will be presumed, unless rebutted, that the disability was sustained due to a work-related accident, thus entitling the applicant to RSSL [Retirement and Social Security Law] § 605(h) disability retirement benefits.
Although the WTC presumption does not mandate enhanced [accident disability retirement] benefits for first responders in all cases, it is nonetheless incumbent on respondents to come forward initially with affirmative credible evidence to disprove that the officer’s disability was causally related to his work at the WTC site … . The Board may not deny benefits solely by relying on the lack of evidence connecting the disability to the exposure, or by “rely[ing] on petitioner’s deficiencies to fill its own gap in proof” … . Matter of Samadjopoulos v New York City Employee’s Retirement Sys., 2013 NY Slip Op 01901, 400912/10, 9493, 1st Dept. 3-21-13