Widow Instrumental in Passage of Florida Law to Extend Line of Duty Death Benefits To Firefighters Killed During Training

An important piece of legislation was passed in Florida last month, and signed into law on June 1, 2010 to close a loophole in Florida law that treated the death of a firefighter during training as not “in the line of duty”.

This issue came into prominence in 2007 when Volusia County Firefighter John Curry died during a wildland fire training exercise. Personnel were cutting a tree that fell in an unexpected direction, landing on FF Curry, who was 30 years old at the time. His wife and young son were ineligible for state death benefits and her health benefits were also terminated because the training death was inexplicably not considered to be a line of duty death under Florida law.

Oddly enough the law at the time provided line of duty death benefits for a firefighter killed while engaged in firefighting activities, or one who was otherwise acting within the scope of employment of a firefighter, yet somehow that description was interpreted to not include training. (One can only wonder…..)

The new law clarifies the loophole, and was enacted after years of intense lobbying by John Curry’s widow, his IAFF local, and other public safety organizations. The amendment was approved without opposition by both the House and the Senate and was made retroactive to November 1, 2007. John Curry died on November 27, 2007, so his family will be eligible.

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About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • John K. Murphy

    This is a great piece of legislation. Florida is on the cutting edge of taking care of their Firefighters. Several years ago, Governor Jeb Bush pushed through legislation for an off duty firefighter who stopped at the scene of an accident, struck by a car and killed. That legislation provided LODD benefits to wife and family. As an industry we need to get over parsing out who dies in the line of duty and who doesn’t. We are all on duty whenever we are performing as a firefighter whether on the clock, training or stopping by off-duty to assist. That’s what we are trained for and that’s what we do. Too bad this death took legislative action but it was the right action. There is justice under the law – in Florida.

  • John
    I think it takes a special kind of cold heart to deny a firefighter’s widow death benefits because her husband was killed while training, not at a fire. That kind of decision would make Scrooge proud.
    How anyone could have interpreted training to be outside the scope of employment of an firefighter is totally beyond me. Even basic workers comp law would have recognized coverage for training related injuries and deaths.


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