On appeal from the Board of Trustees, Police and Firemen's Retirement System, PFRS #3-10-34908.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Cuff and Fasciale.
Denzal McClutcher appeals from an order and final determination by the Board of Trustees, Police and Fireman's Retirement System (the Board), that he is ineligible to receive accidental disability retirement benefits. The main question is whether sitting in a police car qualifies as a "traumatic event" pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:16A-7. We affirm.
McClutcher worked as a police officer for several years and was assigned to conduct patrol. While sitting in a Crown Victoria on July 9, 2004, he folded his left leg under his right leg and felt tightness. He continued to work for a month and then visited the hospital. He was diagnosed with blood clots, prescribed medicine, and eventually returned to work. On January 18, 2006, he folded his leg the same way while sitting in the Crown Victoria and had a familiar feeling. The next day he was prescribed blood thinner, diagnosed with Deep Venous Thrombosis, and retired. McClutcher's expert, Dr. Anthony C. Boddi, could not identify a time and place when clotting first began.
McClutcher filed a claim for accidental disability retirement benefits on September 29, 2006. In an initial decision, the Board denied McClutcher's claim because his injury was not considered a "traumatic event." McClutcher appealed to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the ALJ denied his claim.*fn1
The ALJ noted that N.J.S.A. 43:16A-7 allows for accidental disability benefits when a person is "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 . . . ." The Supreme Court has explained that a "traumatic event" is:
a. identifiable as to time and place,
b. undesigned and unexpected, and
c. caused by a circumstance external to the member (not the result of pre-existing disease that is aggravated or accelerated by the work) . . . . [Richardson v. Bd. of Trs. Police & Firemen's Ret. Sys., 192 N.J. 189, 212-13 (2007).]
The ALJ found McClutcher was permanently and totally disabled, but not as a result of a "traumatic event." The ALJ explained that McClutcher failed to establish that his blood clots were identifiable as to time and place and were not caused by a circumstance external to McClutcher. The Board adopted the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the ALJ.
On appeal, McClutcher argues that sitting in a police car which caused blood clots, qualifies as a "traumatic event" under N.J.S.A. 43:16A-7 and ...