UTICA – A State Supreme Court judge has dismissed Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks’ health benefits lawsuit against the city, calling it “premature”.
In a ruling dated last week, Judge Patrick McRae says Brooks’ lawsuit against the city was premature because he never actually formally applied for sick leave benefits related to the leukemia he says he contracted when he worked at Ground Zero after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.
Brooks had previously applied for workers compensation benefits for firefighters injured in the line of duty, but that application was rejected by the city. However, under a new law signed by Gov. Cuomo earlier this year, firefighters who became ill as a result of their response to the 9/11 attacks can apply for sick leave benefits.
Brooks is currently on paid leave from his position as fire chief.
Here is the text of the city’s statement to the media:
Today, the New York State Supreme Court dismissed Fire Chief Russell Brooks’ 92-d case, ruling in favor of the City.
Despite inaccurate and misleading information that was spread in the public arena in regards to the City’s decision to place Chief Brooks on medical leave, the City is pleased with today’s ruling.
While it’s never popular to deny anyone’s disability claim, the City has an obligation to follow the law, even when it’s not politically convenient.
The City’s decision was based solely on the facts and medical evidence after a thorough review of Chief Brooks’ medical file by an independent doctor and toxicologist. The City will continue to take this position.
By no means did the Supreme Court ruling minimize Chief Brooks 42-year service to the Utica Fire Department. The City has always acknowledged and recognized that Chief Brooks and the eleven other Utica Fire Department personnel represented the City while assisting in the recovery on 9/11 and we value and appreciate their service.
Since Chief Brooks was placed on medical leave, he has been provided his full salary and health benefits. The City is aware this matter is not yet fully resolved as there are other legal options available. Regardless of any outcome in the future we continue to wish Chief Brooks well.
NewsChannel 2 has reached out to Chief Brooks for a response to this ruling.