Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Alberda v. Boad of Retirement of Fresno (Cal. Ct. App. - March 12, 2013)

Whenever I see an appeal involving a disability claim of a police officer or firefighter, I always assume that the employee is going to win.  It's an open secret in these professions that only the most foolish (or naive) employees actually "retire" when they feel like stopping work.  Rather, the common move is to retire on disability.  Your knees hurt, your back hurts, your butt hurts, whatever.  Sympathetic officials, judges, and onlookers will find the employee's claim credible, and will want to give something back for the employee's work on behalf of public safety over the years.  Only suckers, it's said, don't take advantage of what the public's willing to give them.  Even if a credible case takes a little (or perhaps a lot of) exaggeration and fudging with the facts.  It's perceived, at least by some, as an entitlement.  Or at least easy money.  Why not take it?

Given this backdrop, I was interested when I read this case.  In which both the Retirement Board as well as the trial court denied the police officer's disability claim.  Perhaps the well-publicized state of public pensions in California has started to give some pause to the usual practice.  Or perhaps this is an idiosyncratic case.  Regardless, the disability claim is denied.

Though that's a decision the Court of Appeal reverses.

Which doesn't necessarily mean that Thomas Alberda gets his disability pay.  But it does mean he gets another shot.

Alberda, by the way, is a 6'7" former basketball player who had two previous surgeries on his knees as a result of injuries playing basketball.  But Alberda claims that he's entitled to retire on a disability because problems with his knees both prevent him from working and are the result of his service on the force.

We'll see how it plays out on remand.