McGuire said the ruling should serve as a reminder to the trustees of the New York City Police pension fund and the medical board that advises the trustees that they must rely on competent medical evidence as the basis of their decisions.
"The court's decision will go a long way toward helping police officers obtain the benefits the Legislature intended that they have because of the serious health risks they were exposed to as a result of 9/11," McGuire, a former First Department justice, said in an interview yesterday. "The decision makes clear that conclusory statements by the medical board cannot constitute competent evidence that rebuts the World Trade Center presumption."
Chet Lukaszewski of Lake Success argued on behalf of Maldonado and Rosemary Carroll of Clermont submitted papers on behalf of Bitchatchi.
Assistant New York City Corporation Counsel Paul Rephen represented the police pension fund.
Rephen said in a statement yesterday that the corporation counsel's office is disappointed in the ruling.?"While the plaintiff's service was laudable, in each case, a three-person independent medical board reviewed the plaintiffs' medical records multiple times. It found there was a 'high degree of medical certainty' that the individuals' cancers weren't caused by 9/11."
Rephen pointed out that the court did not hold that the medical board's diagnoses were incorrect but, rather, that the board needed to "provide more information to overcome the presumption."
"The medical board will endeavor to do so in future cases," Rephen said.
The corporation counsel's office said litigation over the World Trade Center presumption disputes is relatively rare.
The office said about 75 pension matters related to the presumption have been litigated, with the city successfully defending the pension board's decisions in 47 of those cases, or 65 percent.
Other issues that have led to litigation were whether medical conditions were related in any way to toxic exposure and whether the length of time they were at the site or around the debris of the Twin Towers was sufficient to trigger the presumption.