Former firefighter with cancer files lawsuit against county after being denied health benefits


Phillip Shinn [Courtesy of the Professional Firefighters of Marion County]

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Posted March 29, 2024 | By Caroline Brauchler

Former firefighter Phillip Shinn has filed a lawsuit as an individual against Marion County after his claim for cancer benefits was denied.

After retiring from Marion County Fire Rescue in February of 2016, Shinn was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in August of 2022. Although Shinn had been retired from the department and aged out of its health insurance, he meets all of the requirements for health benefits as a retired firefighter suffering from cancer.

Firefighters are entitled to health benefits for cancer treatment under Florida Statute 112.1816. This legislation was put in motion by Florida Senate Bill 426, which was written in part by workers compensation attorney James Spears, who works closely with the Professional Firefighters of Marion County and is representing Shinn in his lawsuit.

In lieu of pursuing workers’ compensation coverage, a firefighter is entitled to cancer treatment and a one-time cash payout of $25,000, upon the firefighter’s initial diagnosis of cancer,” according to the bill.

Shinn served as a firefighter in Marion County for 22 years, since 1994.

While multiple myeloma is a rare form of cancer affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans per year, firefighters are at a 53% increased risk of developing multiple myeloma due to exposure from carcinogens, according to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

The PFFMC has also shown support for former firefighter Alex Sofield, who was diagnosed with stage four adenocarcinoma, a lung cancer, this year. Sofield resigned from the department after 19 years of service.

The union participated in the Women’s Council of Realtors “We Care Day 2024” by doing home and yard maintenance to support the Sofield family.

Two out of every three firefighters develop cancer in their lives, about 68%, in comparison to 22% of the general population, according to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

Sofield was not eligible for the health benefits for firefighters with cancer, therefore has no connection to Shinn’s pending lawsuit.

Shinn is one of eight firefighters in Marion County who have been denied health benefits guaranteed by this law after being diagnosed with cancer.

Representatives from Marion County declined to comment on Shinn’s lawsuit “in an effort to uphold the integrity of the pending litigation.”

A hearing has been set for 9:45 a.m. on May 14 before Judge Steven Rodgers.

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