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LYNCH v. TOBRINER

January 12, 1965

James M. LYNCH, Plaintiff,
v.
Walter N. TOBRINER, President, F. J. Clarke, Member, John B. Duncan, Member, Board of D.C. Commissioners, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CURRAN

Plaintiff, a retired officer of the Metropolitan Police Department, has applied to this court for a mandatory injunction to require the defendants, constituting the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia, to order plaintiff to be retired for disability due to an illness incurred in the performance of duty under the provisions of the District of Columbia Code, Title 4, Sec. 527 (1961 Edition). Plaintiff had been retired for disability under another provision of the Code granting retirement benefits for disability 'due to injury received or disease contracted other than in the performance of duty'. District of Columbia Code, Title 4, Sec. 526 (1961 Edition). The difference is that under the first mentioned section, plaintiff would have the benefit of a retirement annuity of at least 66 2/3 per centum of his basic salary, rather than the 40 per centum as provided in the last mentioned section.

Upon the basis of an administrative record, consisting of the proceedings before the Police and Firemen's Retirement and Relief Board, the defendants, as the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia, sustained the action of the Police and Firemen's Retirement and Relief Board in ordering the retirement of Private Lynch for disability not incurred in the line of duty. The vote of the members of the Police and Firemen's Retirement and Relief Board was three to two, three members recommending the retirement of the plaintiff for a disability not incurred in the performance of duty, and two members dissenting, feeling that the retirement should be for a disability incurred in the performance of duty.

 Plaintiff was appointed a member of the Metropolitan Police Department on April 13, 1942, apparently in good health, and served continuously until his retirement on July 14, 1961, for a disability diagnosed as essential hypertension with uncontrolled elevations in blood pressure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

 The pertinent testimony adduced before the Police and Firemen's Retirement and Relief Board was the medical report of Dr. Victor H. Esch, Member of the Board of Police and Fire Surgeons; Dr. G. Louis Weller; and the testimony of the plaintiff himself.

 The medical report of Dr. Victor H. Esch is as follows:

 Dr. G. Louis Weller testified as follows:

 'Q. Doctor, I notice there is no mention here of trauma at all?

 'A. Not in the letter, no sir. I think we have to consider elevated blood pressure from the standpoint of what we might call emotional trauma, not physical trauma; I think we have to differentiate those two types of trauma, the one type somebody gets hit by a prisoner or he's in a car that gets hit by another automobile, and that is what we diagnose as, or delineate as, physical trauma. The other type is when you are continually driving yourself, you're stimulating your adrenal medulla, you're releasing more and more adrenalin from your adrenal glands, your adrenalin is constricting the blood vessels, the so-called arterials, your adrenalin is undoubtedly doing a certain amount of damage to the structures in the base of the brain, and that is what we call emotional tension or stress syndrome, that is the term that is being widely used, and I think it is very descriptive, which we've used -- that is, the profession has used -- over a period of the last eight to ten years. And Private Lynch's case will fall into that type with repeated emotional problems.'

 The plaintiff described his work in the radio dispatch room as follows:

 'And of course my duties the last 13 years now, I've been there since 1948 when they first opened up -- why, I've been more or less under stress I would say, that would be the only expression I could use. There's no hour goes by that there isn't something happening, and unusual happenings why naturally you'd feel it more. For instance, such occasions as the Puerto Rican affair we had about five years ago; I was by myself then, I had to initiate the action there. My fellow dispatcher, there were only two dispatchers there, happened to be out of the room; and situations such as that crop up from time to time and you do have to use a little judgment and it puts you under a little unnecessary stress. And I've worked along with Chief Wallrodt here many, many times, I guess he could probably testify to that; many, many important happenings; and you do feel it, it just crops up within you. When you go home, why you're a couple, two or three hours before you're calmed down.'

 'A. 'No, I don't rotate, I work the same hours, same trick of duty.'

 'Q. 'Six in the evening till ...


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