Attleboro Police Association, MassCOP Local 352 – Accidental Disability Retirement of Detective James Cote

On November 2, 2010, Attleboro Police Detective James Cote, who was also President of the Attleboro Police Association, MassCOP Local 352, suffered a cardiac arrest in his home and was in critical condition for days.  MassCOP members throughout the state showed their support for Det. Cote and his family.  Det. Cote made an astounding recovery in the face of a prognosis of a mere 5% chance of survival.  However, he suffered memory loss from lack of oxygen.  While able to resume many of the activities of his daily life, Det. Cote was unable to continue his work as a police officer, and had to retire at the age of forty.

Det. Cote’s Union, represented by Leigh Panettiere of Sandulli Grace, P.C., assisted Det. Cote in filing an application for accidental disability retirement with the City of Attleboro Retirement Board, taking the position that Det. Cote’s cardiac arrest was work-related.  Det. Cote’s cardiologist diagnosed Det. Cote with a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, usually an inherited condition.  Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often causes sudden death in professional athletes, who appear completely healthy one moment but die of a sudden cardiac arrest the next.  One member of the medical panel believed that the existence of this so called “risk factor” exempted Det. Cote from the heart law presumption.

However, the Union was able to demonstrate through Police Department records and the testimony of Det. Cote’s fellow detectives that Det. Cote’s underlying heart condition had been exacerbated by the stress of a high-profile, high-pressure murder investigation that Det. Cote was spearheading up until the night before his cardiac arrest, and that, therefore, even if the heart law presumption did not apply, Det. Cote was entitled to an accidental disability retirement because his job had accelerated the condition.

Thanks to a well-written, thorough affidavit by Det. Cote’s cardiologist, a dedicated local Retirement Board willing to do the extra work necessary to understand the medical evidence, and the support of his Union and the Police Department, the Accidental Disability Retirement application was accepted by the Retirement Board, and it was approved by PERAC on June 27, 2013.

MassCOP and Attorney Panettiere were happy to be able to assist Det. Cote in the face of this daunting injury, and continue to send their good wishes to him and his family.


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