Another Reason to Hate Fax Machines

Sunday, April 27, 2014
Richard O'Brien

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.

-Steve Straehley


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)


lakawak 4 years ago
I am more disturbed at how casually these people tried to cheat taxpayers out of millions of dollars that he didn't deserve since he WASN'T RETIRED when he fell and died while not on the job. If regular people tried to do that, it would be called fraud.
Scott 4 years ago
Completely agree with Jen. What a joke. Fabricate a retirement for this guy on his death bed and expect the tax payers to foot the bill. Why should this guy's wife of 5 months get so much money from the State? Ridiculous.
Jen 4 years ago
The man was sadly fatally injured in a non work-related accident. While I feel bad for his wife and child, there is absolutely no reason this should be appealed. Even if the fax had gone through, I don't think it should have been accepted. Trying to play the system and cost the tax payers millions. Different story completely if he had been injured and then died while on duty.
what_wer_they_thinking 4 years ago
This is terrible. However no policeman was smart enough after the 3rd failed attempt or 5 or 7 or 11 time.. to we have a problem...let's find another machine

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