Winning… Despite the Odds

Every year between 150 and 165 police officers die nationwide while protecting our safety. The silver screen would have you believe that gun shots, stabbings, auto accidents—all the action-packed scenarios—are the only causes. But many officers throughout the country die every year due to more insidious “culprits,” such as cancer-causing toxins they were exposed to in the line of duty.

That was the case for a client of the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK)—a Manhattan Beach police officer who died from a glioblastoma (brain tumor).

Even though the cancer presumption (an injury presumed to be caused by work, and outlined in Labor Code 3212) usually applies where it can be shown that the injured safety officer was exposed to a known carcinogen, the evaluator in this case presented an analysis rebutting the cancer causation presumption, concluding that the death was not industrially related. 

“The debate here was over latency, which is the time it takes for cancer to show itself after exposure to a carcinogen,” explains GEK attorney Steve Scardino.

However, despite the fact that the Qualified Medical Examiner’s opinion was contrary to the presumption of compensability, a settlement was reached.

“Persistence is key in all presumption cases, and you cannot assume that the evaluators will cooperate.  On the other hand, it is very difficult for an employer to rebut the presumption since safety officers are exposed to so many potential carcinogens during every shift.”

It is essential to gather as much information as possible about exposure to many carcinogenic chemicals, such as several types of vehicle and aviation fuel, exhaust from emergency vehicles, solvents, toxics from burning buildings, chemicals associated with drug possession and manufacturing, etc. That information must be included in a Workers’ Compensation claim.

“This case is very special to me because a lawyer from another firm initially rejected it,” explains  Scardino. “We took it on despite the dire odds related to causation and latency because our client, Jeff, was a great guy. He was well respected as a police officer, someone who was very generous with his time in terms of caring for others…. He had a wonderful wife and two young daughters. Not pursuing this was not an option.”

And by pursuing it, Scardino was able to obtain a substantial six-figure settlement for the family. “This is a case that reminds me of why I’m a workers’ comp attorney.  

“I was moved and humbled by the hundreds of people who attended Jeff’s funeral.  Jeff may be gone, but his memory and legacy remain, and his family’s financial future is not in question.

“The safety net of presumptions is alive and well, and certainly allowed us to obtain a settlement for Jeff’s family.” But Scardino is quick to add, “In this case, the presumption helped, but so did our moral high ground.”  

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