City takes Ohio firefighters to court over presumptive cancer claims

A 'betrayal of trust' says Toledo union head, as local government fights cancer-related claims


By Jessie Forand

TOLEDO, Ohio — Some Toledo firefighters are calling it a "slap in the face." Their city is taking them to court over worker's compensation claims as they battle cancer. 

Ohio's 13abc reported that while state law presumes firefighters with cancer contracted the disease while serving their communities, the city of Toledo is fighting claims that have already been accepted. 

Toledo firefighters say they're fighting against the city — while they fight for their lives
Toledo firefighters say they're fighting against the city — while they fight for their lives (Photo/Toledo Fire and Rescue)

That law, the Michael Louis Palumbo, Jr., Act, was named after a Cleveland-area firefighter, whose family was awarded benefits after the man's death. 

Related: Firefighter honored after dying of occupational cancer

Fire Lt. Jennifer Hill and Firefighter Miguel Castillo both said they filed worker's compensation claims after cancer diagnoses, and their claims were approved. 

“You spend your whole life doing this. You’re living with people, you’re working 24 hours a day. It’s your family, it’s your second family and to be treated like that, it’s a slap in the face,” Hill said.

They are among those fighting their claims in court - while they fight for their lives. 

“The city claims that they love us. They love what we do. They support us and everything, and then they’re going to take you to trial for getting cancer,” Firefighter James Martin said. His claim is also being questioned. 

If the city wins its case, the firefighters involved would need to use private insurance and pay out-of-pocket what isn't covered. 

The local union president, Matt Tabb, called it a betrayal of trust. 

The city refused comment to 13abc. 

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