Florida Court Rules Cancer Law Covers Illness Diagnosed Prior to Enactment

A Florida firefighter who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year, prior to the passage of the state’s cancer benefit law for firefighters in May of this year, has prevailed in his efforts to secure benefits under the act.

Last week, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ramsberger granted summary judgment to St. Petersburg Lieutenant Jason Francis. Lt. Francis sued St. Petersburg last July after the city refused his request for cancer benefits under Florida Statutes 112.1816, because his diagnosis pre-dated the enactment of the law.

Judge Ramsberger ruled:

  • The Statute does not state that its provisions are to be applied retroactively from its effective date of July 1, 2019.
  • In the absence of such language in the Statute, it is presumed that the Statute is to be applied prospectively.
  • Likewise, the Statute does not state that a diagnosis of cancer shall have occurred subsequent to the effective date of the Statute, and the Statute does not expressly prohibit application of a diagnosis that occurred prior to such effective date.
  • When statutory provisions are ambiguous, the Court may look to express legislative intent for guidance.
  • In this case, neither party provided evidence of clear, express legislative intent to support their position or refute the opposing party’s position.
  • This Court finds that the Statute does not restrict benefits based upon a diagnosis of cancer that occurred prior to the effective date thereof.
  • Accordingly, the Court finds that the Plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
  • Therefore, the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby GRANTED.

Here is a copy of the ruling:

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.
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