Another Reason to Hate Fax Machines
If the Internet hadn’t come along to make fax machines all but obsolete, the case of a New York woman who was unable to get several balky devices to work might’ve made it happen anyway.
New York State Police Investigator Richard O’Brien was dying after he fell from a ladder while working on siding at his mother’s house on December 7, 2009. While O’Brien was undergoing treatment, a state police investigator, trying to help O’Brien’s wife, Stephanie Cannon O’Brien, attempted to file disability retirement papers with the New York State and Local Retirement System from three different hospital fax machines. However, O’Brien died seven minutes before the papers—on the ninth attempt—were successfully received.
The retirement system denied the application, saying that since O’Brien had died seven minutes before the paperwork was received, he was no longer a member of the system. Stephanie O’Brien appealed the decision to the Third Department New York Appellate Division. The court denied the appeal by a 2-1 vote.
“While it is unfortunate that so many failed attempts were made to fax the retirement documents while decedent was still alive, there is no dispute that he died—and his membership in the retirement system therefore terminated—prior to their receipt,” Presiding Justice Karen Peters wrote for the majority.
If the documents had been sent by certified mail, and received by the post office before O’Brien died, the retirement request would have been accepted, according to the court, pointing out perhaps that old ways are indeed best.
To Learn More:
In Re: Stephanie Cannon O’Brien (FindLaw)
Seven Minutes Too Late for Widow to Get Benefits (by Jeff D. Gorman, Courthouse News Service)
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