Athol Daily News – Warwick sues insurance company over firefighters’ disability benefits

Posted: 7/14/2022 4:09:28 PM

Modified: 07/14/2022 16:09:14

WARWICK – Alleging that its insurance company is not properly compensating a firefighter injured on the job, the city of Warwick has filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Superior Court against Cabot Risk Strategies.

In court papers filed June 23, Warwick alleges Cabot breached his insurance obligations to Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Paul after the company “terminated Mr. Paul’s benefits, citing informal correspondence and not binding from the fire chief that are not binding on the city.” In its paperwork, the city alleges Cabot denied $113,383 in benefits.

City coordinator David Young declined to comment on the lawsuit because it is a personnel matter.

Paul, according to court documents, suffered a “work-related injury to his left wrist” which rendered him unable to work. The city asks Cabot to uphold his “duty to indemnify Paul and the city with respect to injuries he has sustained in the line of duty.”

In denying Paul’s disability benefits, which the company had been providing since Paul’s injury in January 2014, Cabot claimed that Warwick, in multiple emails dated September 16, 2021, had listed Paul as “retired” since June 1. 2021. The insurance company also said a Facebook post from the Warwick Fire Department confirmed the designation.

“Indeed, a post from the City Fire Department’s Facebook page dated June 2, 2021 confirmed that Mr. Paul had ‘retired’ from the department and thanked him for his 23 years of service,” wrote barrister Arthur Maravelis in a letter to Warwick Town. Master Jeremiah Pollard.

Reached by telephone on Wednesday afternoon, Maravelis declined to comment because it is pending litigation.

“Our position is that it is unfortunate that the town of Warwick has decided to take legal action,” he said, “but we do not comment on ongoing litigation.”

The fire department’s Facebook post thanked Paul for his decades of service to the city and said he had “retired” from his role.

“The department has news to report. Effective June 1, Deputy Joe Paul retired from the rank of deputy fire chief of the department after 23 years of service,” the post read. “Thank you Joe for many years of service to our community.”

Inactive vs retired

In his letter to the city’s attorney, Maravelis added that “the city has reversed its prior representations and said for the first time that Mr. Paul was placed on inactive duty rather than retired.” after Cabot terminated insurance benefits.

In a November 30, 2021 letter to Cabot seeking redress, Pollard said Paul was placed on “inactive status” by Fire Chief Joe Larson, but the Selectboard had not set any employment status.

“He was placed on inactive status due to his injuries by the fire chief, a designation that was not made by the city’s executive authority through its selection committee,” Pollard wrote. “The designation is merely semantic in any event, as Mr. Paul is unable to serve due to his injuries, regardless of said designation.”

Attempts to reach Pollard before press time on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Cabot’s response to Warwick’s complaint must be filed by Oct. 21, according to court documents.

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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