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Ziadeh v. Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island Board

Superior Court of Rhode Island

August 28, 2017

EMILE E. ZIADEH, Plaintiff,
v.
EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF RHODE ISLAND BOARD, Defendant.

         Providence County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: Frederic A. Marzilli, Esq.

          For Defendant: Michael P. Robinson, Esq.

          DECISION

          LICHT, J.

         Plaintiff Emile E. Ziadeh (Plaintiff or Ziadeh) appeals from a decision of the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island Board (ERSRI or the Board) denying him an accidental disability pension. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 42-35-15.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         Ziadeh was employed with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) as a civil engineer for over twenty-five years. On July 3, 2009, Plaintiff suffered a work-related back injury. He returned to work in September 2010 to what Plaintiff describes as "chaos" and "a very stressful job environment." Pl.'s Mem. 2-3. On November 19, 2010, Ziadeh, while at work, experienced upper body pains and went home. His wife then took him to receive medical care, and it was determined he had suffered a heart attack. Ziadeh has not worked since.

         On September 12, 2012, Plaintiff was granted an ordinary disability pension. However, he had also applied for accidental disability retirement benefits on April 7, 2011.[1] Three independent medical examiners (IMEs) examined Ziadeh during July 2014 in connection with the accidental disability application pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 36-10-14(c): Dr. Arnoldas Giedrimas on July 9, 2014; Dr. Alberto R. Savoretti on July 22, 2014; and Dr. A. Louis Mariorenzi on July 29, 2014. After reviewing Plaintiff's case, the ERSRI Disability Subcommittee (Subcommittee) recommended denial of Ziadeh's application on November 7, 2014. The Board adopted the Subcommittee's recommendation on November 12, 2014. Plaintiff subsequently moved for reconsideration before the Subcommittee, and such a hearing was conducted on December 4, 2015. The Subcommittee again recommended denial, which the Board adopted on December 9, 2015. ERSRI 00960.[2] Ziadeh moved to remand the matter; the Subcommittee heard argument on June 3, 2016, but declined to rule on the motion. The Board again accepted the Subcommittee's recommendation, this time on June 8, 2016. ERSRI 001015. The full Board denied Ziadeh's application a third time after hearing argument on September 14, 2016. ERSRI 001036. Plaintiff commenced this action shortly thereafter, on October 3, 2016.

         II

         Standard of Review

         Appeals from ERSRI are governed by the Administrative Procedures Act, §§ 42-35-1 et seq. According to § 42-35-15(g):

"The court shall not substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. The court may affirm the decision of the agency or remand the case for further proceedings, or it may reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are:
"(1) In violation of constitutional or statutory provisions;
"(2) In excess of the statutory authority of the ...

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