Atlantic County Clerk's Office Employee Wins Disability Pension Appeal

On April 30, 2012, petitioner, Christine Leeds, applied for Ordinary Disability benefits. On December 11, 2012, the Board of Pensions (Board) denied her application for the reason that: “you are not totally and permanently disabled from the performance of your regular and assigned duties pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:15A-42 and relevant case law. Petitioner appealed the denial.

Michelle J. Douglass, Esq. of My Rights Lawyers, L.L.C. represented Leeds.

The issue in this case is whether she is physically or mentally incapacitated to such an extent that she cannot perform her duties as a Recording Clerk in her prior employment with the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office.

Leeds had been an exemplary employee for 18 years. This chnaged after her twin sister was murdered in Egg Harbor City. Leeds became emotionally distraight and depressed to the point of missing work on numerous occasions resulting in her termination from employment. She had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

The case turned on the testimony of two expert witnesses. Petitioner’s expert, Dr. Michaels, tendered his opinion that petitioner is totally and permanently disabled. The Board’s expert, Dr. Lopreto, opined to the contrary.

In summation, the Court found that Dr. Michaels extensive and impressive credentials establish that absent some consistency in content, his opinion should be afforded more weight. In his testimony, Dr. Michaels provided a detailed analysis of petitioner’s condition. He carefully explained how the death of her sister had morphed into a major depressive disorder. He reviewed her symptoms and explained how they demonstrated the presence of this disabling disorder. And he tied his opinion to the results of the MMPI II test.

The action of the Pension Board was reversed. Leeds is eligible retroacticley for ordinary disability retirment pension benefits. To see a copy of the Opinion authored by Adminsitrative Law Judge Bruce M. Gorman, click here.

Categories