An Appellate Division of state Supreme Court panel, in a 5-0 ruling, found that by moving closer to the site of the terrorist attacks and voluntarily watching the destruction, Betro’s injuries “could not be said to have arisen out of, and in the course of, his employment.” The decision affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Board’s earlier decision in Matter of Betro v Salomon-Smith Barney.
Following the September 11 th terrorist attacks, Betro, a senior business analyst with Salomon Smith Barney, claimed he was unable to perform his job task due to posttraumatic stress disorder. Originally, a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge ruled Betro was entitled to a $400-a-week workers’ compensation benefit.
That ruling was overturned by the Workers’ Compensation Board, which determined there was “an insufficient nexus” between Betro’s job and his experiences in lower Manhattan on September 11 th to make his emotional injuries work-related.
On appeal, Betro contended he was eligible for the award because the order from Salomon Smith Barney executives to evacuate his building exposed him to the risk of physical injury, as well as causing him to witness harrowing scenes around the trade center site. The firm should have had arrangements in place to get workers out of Manhattan altogether if they had to vacate the building in an emergency, Betro argued.
The appeals court, following the earlier ruling of the Workers’ Compensation Board’s, found Betro made a “safe and uneventful evacuation” out of a Salomon Smith Barney office building four or five blocks away from the World Trade Center towers and was free to catch a commuter ferry to New Jersey, where he lived.Instead, Betro walked about 50 feet to a street with a view of the doomed trade center towers, and stood watching the destruction for as many as 30 minutes before he headed north toward midtown Manhattan.
“In our view, this testimony provides substantial evidence supporting the Board’s determination that claimant’s progress away from his workplace was sufficient to sever any association between his employment and his injury,” the appeals panel said. “[T]hus, his posttraumatic stress disorder could not be said to have arisen out of and in the course of his employment.”
Betro’s attorney Mark Lewis Schulman told the Associated Press his client plans to appeal the ruling.A copy of the ruling is available at http://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2004/94622.pdf .