Ohio Firefighter Cancer Presumption Bill goes into effect today

After working towards this law for over 20 years, today The Michael Louis Palumbo, Jr act (SB 27) goes into effect for Ohio Firefighters.

What does Presumption mean?

  • A rule of law which permits a court to assume a fact is true until such time as there is a preponderance (greater weight) of evidence which disproves or outweighs (rebuts) the presumption.

How Presumptive Injury Laws Benefit Firefighters:

  • The employee diagnosed with an occupational disease or condition covered by a presumptive disability law would be entitled to:
    • Payment of medical expenses
    • Disability retirement benefits
    • Worker’s comp benefits
    • Lost wages, or
    • Benefits for spouse/family as the situation allows

The Ohio law states:

  • “(X)(1) Cancer contracted by a firefighter: Cancer contracted by a firefighter who has been assigned to at least six years of hazardous duty as a firefighter constitutes a presumption that the cancer was contracted in the course of and arising out of the firefighter’s employment if the firefighter was exposed to an agent classified by the international agency for research on cancer or its successor organization as a group 1 or 2A carcinogen.”

Quick summary of International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

  • IARC is the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization.
  • Uses skills in epidemiology, laboratory sciences and biostatistics to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures may be adopted and the burden of disease and associated suffering reduced.
  • 119 Group 1 Carcinogens (Known carcinogenic to humans)
  • 81 Group 2A Carcinogens (Probably carcinogenic to humans)

Rebuttable for the law:

“(2) The presumption described in division (x)(1) of this section is rebuttable in any of the following situations:”

  • “(a) There is evidence that the firefighter’s exposure, outside the scope of the firefighter’s official duties to cigarettes, tobacco products, or other conditions presenting an extremely high risk for the development of the cancer alleged, was probably a significant factor in the cause or progression of the cancer.”
  • “(b) There is evidence that the firefighter was not exposed to an agent classified by the international agency for research on cancer as a group 1 or 2A carcinogen.”
  • “( c) There is evidence that the firefighter incurred the type of cancer alleged before before becoming a member of the fire department.

Other significant items in the law:

  • “(3) The presumption described in division (x)(1) of this section does not apply if it has been more than twenty years since the firefighter was last assigned to hazardous duty as a firefighter.”
  • “(4) Compensation for cancer contracted by a firefighter in the course of hazardous duty under division (X) of this section is payable only in the event of temporary total disability, permanent total disability, or death”
  • BWC shall prepare a report every two years stating:
    • (1) The number of approved claims;
    • (2) The number of disapproved claims;
    • (3) The number of active claims;
    • (4) The cost related to claims;
  • There is a 70 year cap to this law.  It is assumed if you are diagnosed with cancer after the age of 70 it is from your age.

My personal advice:

  • Start keeping track of your fire exposures.  Any information should be helpful (type of fire, fire phase, type of construction, age of structure, color of smoke, activities performed, PPE used, etc..)  Having this information could be beneficial if you are diagnosed with cancer.  If you retire you also need to keep this information for 20 years.
  • Lawyer up!  In order for your BWC claim to be done quickly and efficiently I suggest enlisting a BWC attorney.  BWC attorneys do not need any money up front (they get paid after they win their case).  Let an attorney handle it so you don’t have to stress about everything.
  • Take care of yourself medically first.  If the BWC process is taking too long, I suggest using your private insurance to obtain whatever treatments you need.  You do not want your cancer to metastasize because your BWC claim is taking to long.  You can always fight for BWC retroactively.

Hope all of this helps!


Jim Burneka

Firefighter Cancer Consultants, LLC



(937) 604-3611