City of Austin drops lawsuit against firefighter with cancer who filed for workers comp

Carrie Stewart is a lieutenant for the Austin Fire Department.

In 2015, Lt. Stewart was diagnosed and treated for occupational cancer. The Austin Firefighter's Association says, “Her claim with workers compensation has been twice affirmed, by four judges who designated that her cancer is a line-of-duty diagnosis under Texas law.”

In 2017, the City of Austin filed a lawsuit against Carrie, asking for a reversal of the rulings and seeking reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. This week, after 3 years, the city decided to drop the suit.

She says, "I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and feeling incredibly grateful to all of our city council members and Mayor Adler." Stewart says they asked really good questions to really understand the suit. She says she's surprised but so grateful. 

"It's been a long few years and been a long year and a half since the city's filed the suit. But again it's been a lot of preparation kind of waiting for things to happen just carrying that around a little bit and knowing that it's kind of hanging around in the background,” Stewart says.

Stewart is hoping there will be more transparency when handling cases like hers next time. Stewart says she's been speaking with Patrick Mahoney from Baytown. "He sent me a congratulations and hopefully the city of Baytown will step up and do the right thing and be able to drop the suit against him as well."

Mahoney had half of his thyroid removed because of cancer and regularly undergoes hormone treatment and blood workups. He is currently paying his expenses out-of-pocket, after the city of Baytown filed a similar suit against him.

He told our sister station in Houston, "We had a firefighter here who died of stomach cancer and they denied his claim and he died and was unable to pursue it and I hope that nobody has to go through this again it's ridiculous."

The Austin Firefighters Association says both the International Association of Firefighters and Baytown Fire Department reached out when the city first filed the lawsuit. They asked could they help, but the Austin Firefighters Association declined, saying "we thought things would fizzle out between Carrie and the city. Time went on, no resolution so we decided to reach out to the media."

They also say, “From the beginning we've stuck to the facts and judges who have reviewed Carrie’s case have agreed, carrier’s cancer is undeniably covered under state law. This suit against her was unprecedented, and action taken by the council was the right call.”

Stewart says there will be legal steps to file an issuance of non-suit and she will work on trying to find best practices for firefighters and for the Austin Fire Department.