Court denies cancer benefits for ex-Central Florida female firefighter

An appeals court Friday rejected arguments that a 2019 state law providing benefits for firefighters diagnosed with cancer should apply to a former Volusia County firefighter. 

A three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal upheld a circuit judge’s ruling denying benefits to Kathleen Weaver, who was diagnosed in 2017 with ovarian cancer that she attributed to her work as a firefighter. Weaver retired in 2012 after working 13 years as a firefighter for the county, according to Friday’s ruling. 

State lawmakers in 2019 passed a measure that provided benefits to firefighters who are diagnosed with various types of cancer, including ovarian cancer. Those benefits include one-time payments of $25,000 and full coverage of cancer treatment, Friday’s ruling said. Previously, firefighters needed to file workers’ compensation insurance claims if they thought cancer diagnoses were linked to their jobs. 

Weaver requested that Volusia County provide the benefits included in the 2019 law. But a key issue in the case involved whether the law should apply retroactively to people diagnosed before the measure took effect. 

A circuit judge ruled that the law was not retroactive, and the appeals court agreed. 

"The text of (the section of state law) does not provide for retroactive application, nor does the section contain any textual clues to support such an application," said Friday’s nine-page decision, written by Judge Mary Alice Nardella and joined by Judges Jay Cohen and F. Rand Wallis.