Court Awards Chicago Paramedic Trainee Lifetime Disability Pay

Bruised leg leads to line of duty lawsuit and lifetime health insurance coverage.


 
 

CHRIS FUSCO and TIM NOVAK, Chicago Sun Times | | Tuesday, July 17, 2012


At 40, Barbara S. Lawson entered the Chicago Fire Department academy, planning to become a paramedic.

Two months into her training, she bruised her leg at the academy while walking backward down a flight of stairs and carrying a table with another paramedic.

Lawson suffered nothing worse than a contusion from the Sept. 30, 1988, mishap, doctors concluded. After two weeks off, she returned to the academy but was unable to do leg exercises with weights.

She's been off work ever since.

Lawson put in a claim for lifetime disability pay.

The board of the Firemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago - which oversees disability payments to 390 injured firefighters and paramedics - rejected her claim. It found that Lawson hadn't been injured in the line of duty. Instead, the board found, she had an "ongoing degenerative condition" caused by "an ongoing injury" to her left heel.

"Lawson is seeking a benefit which provides 75 percent of her salary, with yearly increases until she reaches retirement age," the pension board said in a court filing. "She only attended a few training classes. She never worked as a fire paramedic. She was only a candidate in training. She was a candidate from July 18, 1988, to Sept. 29, 1988. And in that time she missed 31 days due to problems with her left heel.

"The board could reasonably infer that Lawson is attempting to collect an enhanced benefit for an injury which was not caused by an act of duty."

But Lawson sued - and won. A Cook County judge ruled that she had indeed been hurt in the line of duty, reasoning that she'd been ordered to move the table at the academy, leading to her injury.

Lawson, now 64, has been on disability longer than most injured firefighters, though she gets one of the lowest disability payments - $30,591 a year, tax-free.

Altogether, she has collected more than $260,000 since 2003, according to records from the pension fund.

Unlike disabled police officers and firefighters, who face mandatory retirement at 63, there's no mandatory retirement age for paramedics in the Chicago Fire Department. So it appears that Lawson will be able to stay on disability - and continue drawing free health insurance - indefinitely.



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, Chicago Fire Department

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Four Killed in New Mexico Medical Plane Crash

Crash near fairgrounds claims patient and crew of three.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Involved in Crash

Odessa ambulance and car collide during response.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Las Vegas Fire, AMR Reach New Deal

Tentative agreement reached over ambulance calls.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Fire Damages Several Homes in California Earthquake

Four homes destroyed and others damaged after quake rattles Napa.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Mexico Air Ambulance Crash

NTSB investigates crash that killed four.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.? Scranton

JEMS Editor-in-Chief visits his hometown of Scranton, Pa.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Over 100 Injured in California Earthquake

172 patients treated at Napa hospital after 6.0-magnitude earthquake.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >