On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the Board of Trustees, Police and Firemen's Retirement System, Agency Docket No. PFRS 3-10-033940.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 14, 2010
Before Judges Graves and Waugh.
Briane Washington (Washington), a former Essex County Correction Officer, applied for accidental disability retirement benefits as a result of a stressful incident on February 21, 2005, when an inmate spit in his face on two separate occasions.
The Board of Trustees of the Police and Firemen's Retirement System (the Board) found that Washington was suffering post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the incident and awarded him ordinary disability retirement benefits because he was permanently and totally disabled. However, the Board denied Washington's application for accidental disability retirement benefits, concluding that he did not satisfy N.J.S.A. 43:16A-7, which requires an employee to be "permanently and totally disabled as a direct result of a traumatic event occurring during and as a result of the performance of his regular or assigned duties."
Washington appealed and was granted an administrative hearing. Based on the evidence presented, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) determined that Washington was ineligible to receive an accidental disability pension. On appeal, Washington argues that he is entitled to an accidental disability pension because his disability resulted from "a traumatic event" on February 21, 2005. We affirm.
At his administrative hearing, Washington testified that his supervisor directed him to pick up an inmate at the University Hospital of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ) in Newark and transport him to the Essex County jail on February 21, 2005.
When Washington arrived at the hospital, the inmate was not restrained because he was getting dressed. Washington described what happened next as follows:
I noticed that he was pacing in the room and he was picking up things and he was done getting dressed. So, I told him to have a seat so I could put the shackles on him and handcuff him. At that time, he started cursing and being very belligerent and pacing back and forth and he was peeking his head out the door, like you know, he was looking for something down the hall.
And at that point, I'm thinking he's going to try to run. So, I told [him] to have a seat so we can put the shackles on and he starts cursing and screaming. So . . . as I went to approach him, he spat in my face. And when he spat . . . he dug down into his throat and put a blob of spit on [my] face.
I had the cuffs, so I handcuffed him. When I went to go handcuff him, he spat again in my face and I had to restrain him.
Washington testified that after the inmate spit on him, he said: "Now you have what I have." In addition, the parties stipulated that, as a result of the incident, Washington suffered ...