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An attorney who refused to make a long-term commitment to his law firm is entitled to unemployment compensation because he was fired before he got a chance to resign, an appellate court has found. The Appellate Division, Third Department, last week upheld a determination of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board and said Bruce S. Putterman did not voluntarily leave Winston & Winston in Manhattan, even though he intended to. Matter of Putterman, 95468, arose out of Putterman’s position with the small firm that represents financial institutions and commercial interests. In early November 2002, Winston & Winston began questioning Putterman about his plans. He advised the firm that he could not commit to a long-term relationship because he was dissatisfied with his pay. It was apparently Putterman’s plan to stay until a replacement could be found and he could familiarize the new attorney with the office. On Nov. 25, 2002, according to court records, Putterman was advised that the following day would be his last at the firm. He applied for and was awarded unemployment benefits, leading to this appeal. In a memorandum, the court said the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board had “rationally found that claimant’s unwillingness to commit to a long-term employment relationship, thereby indicating that he would eventually be leaving the firm sometime in the future, was insufficient to constitute a resignation.” It also yielded to the board’s conclusion that Putterman had intended to remain with the firm for several more months. On the panel were Presiding Justice Anthony V. Cardona and Justices Thomas E. Mercure, Karen K. Peters, John A. Lahtinen and Anthony T. Kane. Appearing were Arthur Winston of Winston & Winston for his firm; and Russell Shanks of Cyruli, Shanks & Zizmor in Manhattan for Mr. Putterman. Also last week, the Third Department rejected a worker’s compensation claim brought by a man who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis just weeks after sustaining a job-related injury. In Matter of Norberg, 94232, the court said there is insufficient credible scientific evidence to support a causal connection between the injury and the disease. The matter stemmed from an accident on Dec. 26, 1997, when Gregory Norberg hurt his neck while putting plastic wrap around pallets of empty bottles at the Pepsi-Cola Buffalo Bottling Corp. In January 1998, Norberg was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Although Norberg had exhibited signs of MS before the accident, a workers’ compensation law judge concluded that the disease was aggravated by the injury. The Workers’ Compensation Board reversed in an opinion upheld on appeal. Justice Edward O. Spain, writing for the unanimous court, observed that while Norberg’s physician claimed there was a link between the accident and the onset of MS, he also “conceded that there was no proven scientific data supporting the connection between a traumatic event … and the exacerbation of multiple sclerosis symptoms.” Rather, Spain said, the doctor’s opinion was seemingly based solely on the “temporal proximity” between the injury and the diagnosis. “Given the admitted absence of a scientific foundation for the opinion of claimant’s expert, the board justifiably disregarded it as speculative,” Spain wrote. He was joined by Presiding Justice Cardona and Justices Mercure, Kane and Anthony J. Carpinello. Norberg, of Lancaster, N.Y., appeared pro se. Susan R. Duffy of Hamberger & Weiss in Buffalo represented the employer.

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