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Robbins v. Victims' Compensation Assistance Program

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

November 20, 2013

GARY ROBBINS, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
VICTIMS' COMPENSATION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, Defendant/Respondent.

Submitted: September 5, 2013

On Appeal from Decision of the Victims' Compensation Assistance Program.

Garry Robbins, Wilmington, Delaware, self-represented.

Ralph K. Durstein III, Deputy Attorney General, Wilmington, Delaware, counsel for Appellee.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli, J.

This is an appeal by Gary Robbins ("Applicant") from the Victims' Compensation Assistance Program's ("VCAP") decision to deny Applicant's claim. Following the death of Applicant's son, Kevin Bell, Applicant made a claim with VCAP for reimbursement of funeral expenses. The claim was denied. Applicant appealed VCAP's decision to the Appeals Board ("Board"). After a hearing, the Board voted unanimously to uphold VCAP's decision. Accordingly, funeral expenses would not be paid by VCAP. Applicant appealed the Board's decision to this Court. According to Applicant, his claim for funeral expenses meets the standard for VCAP compensation. Applicant also contends that the Board's decision is not supported by substantial evidence.

Facts

On November 4, 2012, there was a shooting outside the Thunderguards Motorcycle Club ("Thunderguards") located at 2800 Northeast Boulevard ("Clubhouse"). Thunderguards were hosting an event at the Clubhouse. Bell engaged in an altercation with a bouncer outside the Clubhouse. After the altercation with the bouncer, Bell crossed Northeast Boulevard away from the Clubhouse. A short time later, Bell returned and began walking towards the Clubhouse. Bell had a firearm and he fired several shots into the crowd gathered outside the Clubhouse. Individuals in the crowd outside the Clubhouse returned gunfire and Bell was shot. Several witnesses confirmed that Bell fired the initial shots.

The Board's Decision

On November 26, 2012, VCAP denied Applicant's claim finding that Bell's actions had either directly or indirectly lead to his death. Applicant appealed VCAP's decision to the Board. On February 19, 2013, a hearing was held and the Board voted unanimously to uphold VCAP's decision. The Board concluded that Bell's behavior had either directly or indirectly contributed to his death. Accordingly, funeral expenses would not be paid by VCAP.

Standard of Review

This Court's scope of review on appeals from the Board is limited to a review of the factual findings and to determine whether the Board abused its discretion or committed an error of law.[1] This Court must uphold the Board's decision unless the Board acted arbitrarily, committed an error of law or made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence.[2] It is for the Board, not this Court, to determine the credibility of witnesses.[3] This Court will not substitute its judgment for that of the Board.[4] If the party who bears the burden of proof fails to meet its burden to convince the Board the claim is compensable, the denial may be overturned only for errors of law, inconsistencies, or capricious disregard of competent evidence.[5]

Discussion

Applicant has appealed the Board's decision to deny Applicant's claim for payment of funeral expenses. Applicant contends that the Board's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. Further, in Applicant's Reply Brief, Applicant requested that this Court not accept VCAP's Answering Brief because it was not timely filed. Finally, ...


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