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City Of Mitchell Appealing Judges Order To Pay Former Officer's Medical Expenses
Updated March 3, 2014 6:53 AM
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(MITCHELL) - The city of Mitchell is appealing a judge's ruling after he ordered the city to pay former police officer Randy Phelix's medical expenses after the city workers' compensation carrier denied the claims.

Mitchell Mayor Gary Pruett says the city can't afford to pay the bills.

In October 2012, Liberty Roberts of Roberts Legal Group LLC, an attorney who represents the city of Mitchell in civil insurance matters, filed a suit asking a judge to decide whether or not the city is obligated to pay for Phelix's medical expenses out of the city's general fund.

But the city argued it shouldn't have to pay the bills because the claim was denied by workers' compensation because Phelix's illness or condition was not incurred in the scope of his duty as an officer.

Indiana Code states a city must pay for the care of a police officer or firefighter who suffers an injury while performing his duty or contracts and illness caused by the performance of the person's duty.

Phelix left the police department in March 2008 on disability. He suffers from diabetes, neuropathy, high blood pressure and renal issues from what he claims were the result of dismantling meth labs while he was an officer.

The Public Employees Retirement Fund granted Phelix a 20 percent disability in December 2008 based on a Class 2 Impairment or duty-related disease.

Phelix submitted his expenses to the city's workers' compensation carrier, Downey Public Risk Underwriters, for consideration but according to court documents Downey noted it was "impossible to determine" whether the neuropathy Phelix suffered was caused by diabetes or toxic exposure from the meth labs.

In the most recent judgment, Special Judge Michael Hoff wrote, "The issue of whether or not ... Phelix has a disease arising out of his employment as a city of Mitchell Police officer ... was decided by PERF, the agency authorized by Indiana law to make that decision."

Judge Hoff ruled that Phelix's rejection by workers compensation did not change that determination so the city has a "clear obligation" under state law to pay Phelix's medical expenses.

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