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Appellate Division Cases of Note

Volunteer Workers: Mauro v. American Red Cross

On 10/3/19, the Appellate Division, Third Department, decided Mauro v. American Red Cross. This decision holds that a person is not an employee of a charitable organization when he or she merely volunteers time working at that organization.

The claimant volunteered time for the American Red Cross as a “volunteer community ambassador.” The Red Cross is a non-profit charitable organization. After her injury, the claimant filed a claim, alleging she met the legal requirements to be considered an employee of the American Red Cross for workers’ compensation purposes. The claimant was an employee of another company, which encouraged volunteerism with charitable organizations. She received full salary from that employer while doing charitable work for the American Red Cross during work hours. The Court highlighted the fact that claimant received no monetary compensation or other form of financial or economic benefit from the American Red Cross in exchange for her volunteer activity. Based on these facts, the Court affirmed the Board’s finding that claimant was strictly a volunteer rather than an employee of the American Red Cross.

OD Claims: Barker v. New York City Police Department

On 10/3/19, the Appellate Division, Third Department, decided Barker v. New York City Police Department. This decision again shows that an occupational disease claim for repetitive use will not automatically be established simply because a treating doctor states the claimed injury is causally related to claimant’s work activities.

In this case, claimant alleged a repetitive overuse injury to her arms. The Board disallowed the claim, and the Court affirmed, stating “the record does not reflect that claimant’s medical providers had adequate knowledge of her work activities or medical history . . . consequently, neither claimant’s testimony nor the medical evidence was sufficient to establish a recognizable link between her shoulder injuries and a distinctive feature of her work, or that her shoulder injuries were attributable to repetitive movements associated with her work.”

This decision serves as a reminder that the defense of occupational disease claims merits special attention to confirm that claimant has met the legal requirements needed to establish an occupational disease, which include, among other things, proof of a “recognizable link” between the claimant’s alleged occupation disease and his or her employment. The claimant cannot establish this link if the evidence from the claimant’s medical providers fails to show adequate knowledge of the claimant’s job duties or medical history.

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