The Recorder – Warwick sues insurance company over firefighter’s disability benefits

Date:


Published: 7/13/2022 5:52:16 PM

Modified: 7/13/2022 5:52:01 PM

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WARWICK — Alleging that its insurance company is failing to properly compensate a firefighter injured on the job, the town of Warwick has filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Superior Court against Cabot Risk Strategies.

In court documents filed on June 23, Warwick alleges that Cabot has violated its insurance obligations to volunteer Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Paul after the company “terminated benefits to Mr. Paul, citing informal and nonbinding correspondences from the fire chief that are not binding on the town.” In its filings, the town alleges that Cabot has denied $113,383 in benefits.

Town 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 the left wrist” that has left him unable to work. The town is asking that Cabot follow through on its “duty to indemnify Paul and the town with regard to the injuries that he sustained in the course of duty.”

In denying disability benefits for Paul, which the company had been providing since Paul was injured in January 2014, Cabot claimed Warwick, in multiple emails dated Sept. 16, 2021, had designated Paul as “retired” since June 1, 2021. The insurance company also stated a Warwick Fire Department Facebook post backed up that designation.

“Indeed, a post from the town’s Fire Department 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 attorney Arthur Maravelis in a letter to Warwick Town Counsel Jeremia Pollard.

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

“Our position is that it’s unfortunate the town of Warwick has decided to file a lawsuit,” he said, “but we do not comment on pending litigation.”

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

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

In his letter to town counsel, Maravelis added that the “town backtracked from its earlier representations and for the first time stated that Mr. Paul was placed on inactive duty as opposed to being retired” after Cabot had terminated insurance benefits.

In a Nov. 30, 2021 letter to Cabot demanding relief, Pollard said Paul was placed on an “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 town’s executive authority through its Selectboard,” Pollard wrote. “The designation is merely semantics 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 clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.





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