The Texas State Association of Fire Fighters (TSAFF) is urging the City of Baytown to drop a lawsuit against Patrick Mahoney, a cancer-stricken battalion chief who works for the Fire Department of that city. The City of Baytown is suing to deny Mahoney's claim.
The legal dispute is over coverage for medical treatment. In a news release, the TSAFF notes that Mahoney, who underwent treatment and surgery for thyroid cancer but is now back on the job because his treatment has been completed, won worker's compensation proceedings twice.
According to the union's news release, the City of Baytown blamed its workers compensation administrator, TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool, for the denial of coverage.
In a letter recently sent to Baytown Mayor Stephen DonCarlos and Baytown City Manager Rick Davis, TSAFF president John Riddle urged the city “to immediately reverse course and ensure Mr. Mahoney that he will receive the insurance benefits promised to him.”
The City of Baytown said in a statement that it has “paid all of the benefits” it was ordered to pay “by the state agency” and continues “to do so.”
In the statement, the city added that “the state agency charged with addressing these types of disputes has taken inconsistent positions on the types of cancer covered under the applicable law” and that the city “has the right to appeal the state agency's decision to District Court.”
“The City has chosen to exercise that right and Mr. Mahoney continues to be afforded all benefits he is due, pending the outcome of the City's appeal,” the statement concluded.
Mahoney reacted to the city's comments with a statement of his own in which he said that “the city's statement makes no sense.”
“A few days ago, the city blamed the insurer for the denial of coverage of my medical treatment. Now, the city claims it ‘has chosen' to sue me. Either way, the city has not paid for my medical bills – despite having twice been ordered to do so,” added Mahoney.
In an interview with Houston Matters' Maggie Martin, Riddle also referred to the city's statement saying: “I’m not sure what they are talking about because Patrick Mahoney’s claim is not being covered by workers’ comp and that’s the benefits that he is due.”
The TSAFF indicates that studies show firefighters are at increased risk of developing thyroid cancer and numerous other illnesses caused by repeated exposure to hazardous materials, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer and other organizations.
According to the union, Chapter 607 of the Texas Government Code ensures treatment of job-related illnesses and Riddle commented the law basically means that, with the type of exposures that firefighters are exposed to on the job, if a cancer can be caused by exposure to heat and radiation through carcinogen elements, then “the cancer is presumed to have been contracted while on the job and the burden of proof then is on the city, or workers’ comp, to prove that it was not.”
The TSAFF president warned that if the city doesn’t drop the lawsuit, they will go to court.
Houston Matters reached out to the City of Baytown and its attorney, but they didn’t respond by the show's deadline.