Family of Deceased First Responder Denied Workers’ Compensation
Welcome Hudson Valley to this week’s edition of IN TOUCH, the award-winning public affairs and issues program that runs across Townsquare Media of the Hudson Valley radio stations.
This week’s guest is Jeff Feldman from Feldman, Kleidman, Collins & Sappe LLP. Together, we have a powerful conversation regarding the importance of our first responders in a post-pandemic world, and the dark precedent that COVID has left on the fields of healthcare, insurance, law, and more.
We invite you to join us and listen to a previously recorded conversation between Jeff and myself here on In Touch. And keep reading below for more information on the case.
This has been this week’s edition of IN TOUCH, the award-winning public affairs and issues program that runs across Townsquare Media of the Hudson Valley radio stations. We want to give a big thank you to Jeff Feldman. For more information Feldman Kleidman Collins & Sappe LLP, visit fkcs.law. In addition to listening to the episode above, keep reading for a better understanding of this case where the family of a volunteer ambulance driver from Orange County, NY, who died after battling COVID-19 for more than one month in the spring of 2020, was denied life insurance and workers compensation.
FELDMAN, KLEIDMAN, COLLINS & SAPPE LLP AIDS FIRST RESPONDER’S FAMILY
FOLLOWING COVID-19 HEARTBREAK
Fishkill, NY-based law firm, Feldman, Kleidman, Collins & Sappe LLP (FKC&S) recently teamed with Workers’ Compensation Attorney Peter M. Cordovano, P.C. to obtain life insurance and workers compensation settlements for the family of a volunteer ambulance driver from Orange County, NY, who died after battling COVID-19 for more than one month in the spring of 2020. FKC&S, which is largely focused in the areas of medical malpractice and personal injury law, was referred the case by another law firm and agreed to provide counsel to the defendants’ family free of charge.
The deceased contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 while volunteering for a local ambulance squad. Aside from those shifts, his wife says he stayed home and isolated from others, including her and their child. Following his death, his life insurance company denied his wife’s claim, stating lack of evidence as to whether he contracted COVID-19 while volunteering on the ambulance or anywhere else. According to Feldman, this happens often in cases related to first responders, including police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, nurses and other health care providers.
After taking on the case, the team at FKC&S leveraged its expertise and connections in the medical field, gathering pertinent medical records and conducting interviews with those who rode in the ambulance with the deceased. They established a detailed timeline of his volunteer shifts and progression of symptoms, as well as his medical appointments, testing and hospitalization.
“In the early days of the pandemic, little was understood about the disease and its treatment and testing was not as accurate as the testing later became,”said Jeffrey M. Feldman, founding partner of FKC&S. “From an evidentiary point of view, proving how he was exposed on the rig was difficult because each patient he transported could have had COVID-19 unknowingly, or medical personnel at the hospitals could have exposed him in passing. We had to think outside of the box and that’s why Peter’s [Cordovano] involvement and hard work was integral to achieving successful results for this family.”
Before FKC&S filed a lawsuit against the life insurance company, Cordovano filed a workers’ compensation claim. The deceased’s wife testified at the subsequent hearing, indicating that the sole reason her husband left the house was to work on the ambulance. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier cross examined her and could not prove that he was exposed to COVID-19 elsewhere. Ultimately, the New York State Workers' Compensation Board found that the deceased contracted COVID-19 due to his work as a volunteer first responder and awarded his widow the benefits to which she was entitled.
Applying their expert knowledge of the doctrine of collateral estoppel, FKC&S’s attorneys understood that this workers’ compensation decision could be binding in a lawsuit against the life insurance company. Collateral estoppel means that a finding by one court or administrative agency may, under certain circumstances, be binding on others who were not party to the initial hearing or proceeding. FKC&S filed the suit and C evidencing medical records, testimony and the ruling from the Workers’ Compensation hearing C argued that the workers’ compensation decision was, in fact, binding. In the end, the life insurance company paid the proceeds of the life insurance policy to the family of the deceased and Feldman delivered the check to them in May of this year.
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