Firefighter Loses Hepatitis Claim

Robert Flamily is a firefighter with the City of Orlando, Florida. When Flamily contracted Hepatitis C, he filed a workers’ compensation claim against the City.

The Florida Court of Appeals upheld the City’s denial of the claim. The Court ruled that under Florida law, to establish that he suffered from an occupational disease, Flamily was required to prove four things: (1) That the disease was actually caused by employment conditions that were peculiar to his occupation; (2) that the disease was actually contracted during employment; (3) that his occupation presented a particular hazard of the disease occurring so as to distinguish the occupation from other occupations; and (4) if the disease is an “ordinary disease of life,” the incidence of such disease is substantially higher in the particular occupation than in the general public.

The Court found that Flamily was unable to meet these tests. The Court pointed to Flamily’s inability to recall any instances of exposure to anyone inflicted with Hepatitis C. Moreover, the Court noted that there was no evidence that Flamily actually contracted the disease during his employment or that he did not have the disease prior to his employment as a firefighter.

The Court also cited the testimony of an occupational disease specialist that he had conducted a study of firefighters, police officers, and corrections officers to determine whether there was an elevated prevalence of Hepatitis C in those groups. The Court decided that “the study revealed the rate of prevalence in those groups was essentially the same as that in the control group of voluntary blood donors. The record also indicates the Center for Disease Control published a report stating there is no higher incidence of Hepatitis C in firefighters than in the general public.”

Flamily v. City of Orlando, 2006 WL 406926 (Fla.App. 2006).

This article appears in the April 2006 issue