City of New Britain and IAFF, Local 992
Arbitrators can find that a firefighter who allegedly sustains serious, work-related, traumatic injuries in the line of duty is entitled to full health benefits for life, pursuant to a collective bargaining contract. In 2002, the City of New Britain hired the grievant, Jason Goodenough, as a firefighter. In September 2008, Goodenough injured his back when he was not at work and Goodenough's medical treatment included steroid injections. In February 2009, Goodenough returned to work full time. In June 2009, Goodenough was seriously injured, when he was hurled into the air by a fully charged water hose and fell down on his air pack, which he wore on his back. In January 2010, he returned to work full time. In November, Goodenough was working when he slipped and fell on concrete stairs and landed on his back, on his air pack. As a result of the injuries that Goodenough sustained, he resigned. The union claimed that if Goodenough had not been injured in the line of duty, he would have continued working, and that Goodenough was entitled to full health insurance benefits for life, pursuant to the collective bargaining contract. The city objected that Goodenough's non-work related injury in 2009 was significant, that Dr. Druckmiller opined that Goodenough had a 20 percent pre-existing injury to the back and that Goodenough's back problems were "cumulative." The collective bargaining contract provides, "The City shall continue to provide full health benefits for the life of the employee to any employee who retires as a direct result of injuries sustained in the line of duty." The collective bargaining contract adds, "Employees that retire as a result of presumptive disease, such as heart disease, or cumulative problems, such as bad backs, etc., may not be covered." Arbitrators found that Goodenough sustained serious, work-related, traumatic injuries in the line of duty. "Except for those work related traumatic incidents," wrote the majority, "the Grievant would still be working at his firefighter job." The grievant decided to retire because he was injured in the line of duty, and he was entitled to full health benefits. Mary Pokorski represented the city, and Eric Chester represented the union.