The Court in McCain v. Town of North Providence Says Your Job Title Makes a Difference in Bangor Workers’ Compensation Cases

Firefighters are one of the most crucial components of our society today. But when safety personnel are injured on the job, statute says they cannot collect benefits under workers’ compensation. They must receive benefits through the states “injured on duty statute.”If you have questions surrounding the benefits you are entitled to in your Bangor workers’ compensation case, our experienced Bangor injury attorneys can help.
McCain v. Town of North Providence is a case that tackles questions surrounding the Rhode Island’s “injured on duty statute.”sThe mayor’s chief of staff in 2001 wrote a memorandum to the town’s fire chief indicating that the town had hired McCain (plaintiff) as a 3rd Class Firefighter. The fire chief then issued an order which formalized this appointment of McCain. Subsequently, McCain received an identification card where he was considered a technician and a member of the town fire department. As a technician or lineman, plaintiff was not considered to be part of the operations division, as he was not obligated to attend fire department training. Plaintiff was responsible for maintaining communication equipment, aiding inspectors from the Fire Prevention Division, and assisting the fire chief in any departmental issue.

Plaintiff was a member of the AFL-CIO (the union) which was exclusively responsible for bargaining for all fire department employees. The union had a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the fire department for which all employees of the fire department were subject to.

Five years after he was initially hired, plaintiff was putting a ladder back on a bucket truck when he lost balance and struck his head on a bucket apparatus. Because putting the ladder away was part of plaintiff’s job duties, he was considered to be injured in the line of duty. This classification resulted in the plaintiff receiving injured-on-duty (IOD) benefit payments as of the date of injury in addition to his salary payments. After three years of making these IOD and salary payments the town stopped payments. The town never gave the plaintiff notice and did not give the plaintiff an opportunity to be heard on the issue. Town argued that because plaintiff was not a “sworn firefighter” they had been mistakenly sending these IOD payments to plaintiff. Basically, there was a difference between the IOD benefits and the workers’ compensation related injury benefits.

Plaintiff asked the court to enter a declaratory judgment stating that he was a firefighter under the statutory definition of said title. Additionally, plaintiff wanted the IOD payments to resume.

This court looked to interpretation of the statute to determine whether the plaintiff was considered a firefighter and whether he should be entitled to the IOD benefits. When interpreting statute the court looks to the intent of the legislature in codifying the statute. In this case, the IOD statute was to provide a greater level of benefits to public employees who are injured during work-related activities where their jobs are often dangerous. IOD statutes are seen as a replacement to workers’ compensation in that it provides greater protection to police officers and firefighters. It is noted further that the Workers’ Compensation Act excludes police officers and firefighters from collecting benefits under that act as the legislature encourages states to enact IOD statutes.

The applicable statute says that anyone employed as a member of the fire department is considered a firefighter by the statute. Because the language in the statute is so clear, the court explains that they cannot hold counter to the statute’s clear intent.

Because the statute defines firefighter in such a broad sense, the plaintiff was considered a firefighter who was injured on duty; therefore, IOD benefits should be paid.

If you have been injured contact Maine injury attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates to schedule a appointment. Call 1-800-804-2004.

Additional Resources:

McCain v. Town of North Providence, No. 2010-161-Appeal (R.I. S.Ct. Apr. 5, 2012).

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