Two years after firefighter dies from cancer, township takes family to court over benefits

Local News

Brian Davis spent his life fighting fires and protecting others. In 2016, he died from cancer. Now, his family is trying to put out a fire of their own. 

When Davis passed, the state recognized his illness as being work-related and granted his family workers compensation benefits. But, now, Norwich Township, where he worked, is taking his family to court so they don’t have to pay up. In court documents, the township alleged Davis didn’t get cancer on the job.

“I think if Brian was here today and he knew his employer, Norwich Township, was doing this he would feel very betrayed,” said Davis’ wife Marney Davis.

Under the recently passed Firefighter Cancer Presumption Law, the state acknowledged Davis contracted cancer through his work as a firefighter. This spring, the township appealed that decision to prevent having to pay Davis’ family workers compensation benefits.

“I never thought that I would be going to court at 18,” said Davis’ son Nicholas Davis.

Davis family lawyer Carla Cannon said it’s an expensive battle being paid for on the taxpayers’ dime.

“Experts deposing experts and court reporters, and attorney fees, yes tens of thousands of dollars literally,” said Cannon.

The township isn’t talking. We reached the township’s attorney and three trustees who all declined to comment. Township Adviser Jamie Miles did confirm,  “the legal fees for this case have been earmarked and will continue to be paid from the fire fund levies.”
 
Cannon said the only thing she can figure is that it is a matter of precedent. 

“So, Norwich is saying don’t try to get these benefits or this is what will happen, we will sue you. We will take you to court and we will fight. They are just trying to prevent other people from doing it,” said Cannon.

In court documents filed by Norwich Township, the township alleges Davis’ cancer did not arise from him employment, citing a report from a doctor and pathologist.  The documents also said Davis died on June 29th, 2016, nearly a year before the Firefighter Presumption Law took effect and that the presumption only applies to firefighter cancer claims after April 6th, 2017.

Davis’ wife and children reminisced about the amazing man he was and how much he is missed.

“He would spend his off days here at the senior center always bettering everybody else,” said his daughter Hannah Davis.

His family said they’re picking up where he left off,  fighting for their dad and other firefighters who could one day face the same battles.

“If we would be able to do that and start that movement, how incredible. To have all of these hard feelings and days that we have had because of losing our dad and being able to have a greater picture and something better to look at would be awesome,” said Hannah.
 
When we covered this story in its early stages the Norwich Township Fire Chief gave us a statement saying they rely on the, “Ohio Worker’s Compensation system to make decisions in determining entitlement to benefits.” But, now we know even after the system made its decision the case continues. The trial doesn’t begin until next summer.
 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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