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Injured FDNY Firefighter Loses Disability Petition Years after Brutal Bar Fight


Posted on Jan 05, 2012

The New York State Court of Appeals last month rejected a firefighter's appeal to receive extra disability benefits eight years after a New Years bar brawl left him with a cracked skull.

Robert Walsh, now 48, formerly from a Tottenville, Staten Island, firehouse, was hurt on December 31, 2003. He had engaged in an argument in the firehouse kitchen over Elvis Presley's date of birth either with his assailant, Michael Silvestri, or with someone else. The argument escalated and took a turn for the worse when Walsh accused Silvestri of selfishly scheduling his days in a manner that forced three others to work through Thanksgiving weekend. Silvestri then threatened to hit Walsh with a chair and eventually did so when Walsh, presumably facetiously, coaxed him while his back was turned.

Silvestri was sentenced to a year in jail in 2006 for felony assault. Walsh had suffered neurological damage and won a $3.75 million settlement from the city. In 2005, Walsh was given standard disability retirement benefits, which amount to half of his last year's salary, minus tax.

In 2007, he petitioned for higher accidental disability retirement benefits, or 75% of his last year's salary, tax-free. The issue was whether an intentional assault could be a contractually-recognized accident. The Pension Board denied the petition with a tie vote in 2008. Later that year, Walsh's appeal in court was declined, as it later was by the Appellate Court. This December, the NY State Court of Appeals declined his petition as well.

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