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9/11 Firefighter Widow Wins $3 Million WTC Pension after Nine Year Court Fight

9_11 Firefighter

The New York Post has a great article today on the Court decision giving the widow of a hero 9/11 firefighter a $3 Million dollar WTC pension payout “The word ‘no’ is not in my vocabulary,”  the widow, Jackie Kaht Fernandez, 53, told The Post. What makes this story so sad is that the widow could have received the 9/11 WTC death benefits much sooner had the New York City Fire Department simply followed the World Trade Center Presumption Law. Way to go Jackie for not giving up! 

Instead, Supreme Court Justice Richard Velasquez excoriated the NYC Pension Board for “shocking and unconscionable” behavior and acting in “bad faith” in his decision.  The Pension Board had essentially ignored two prior court decisions overturning decisions of the Pension Medical Board which decides 9/11 WTC related cases. The decision noted:

“Her late husband, Lt. Cruz Fernandez, died suddenly on July 14, 2006 of a 9/11 related medical condition.  Lt. Fernandez was a “First Responder” who worked at Ground Zero from September 11, 2001 through the next 25 days, sometimes as often as 15 hours per day. Prior to his untimely death at age 52, Lt Fernandez had completed nine marathons”.

The NYC Fire Department Pension Board is required to use the 9/11 WTC Presumption. As the Court stated:

Once an applicant establishes that the 9/11 hero worked the requisite number of hours at Ground Zero, the “World Trade Center Presumption” places the burden on the New York City Fire Department Pension Board to show that the applicant’s qualifying injury was not incurred in the line of duty.

The 9/11 WTC presumption is not only important in the Fernandez firefighter pension case, but it is equally important in 9/11 WTC cancer cases. After all, how is a disabled 9/11 hero supposed to prove that 9/11 related cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, kidney cancer, lung cancer, mesothelioma, prostate cancer, melanoma cancer of the skin, colon cancer or bladder cancer?.

Congrats also to our partner, NYC Pension Attorney Chet Lukaszewski, who battled the City and overcame every legal hurdle thrown his client’s way.

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