Former University Park firefighter sues city over medical expenses

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on May 5, 2013 at 10:08 PM

Updated Sunday, May 5 at 10:56 PM

UNIVERSITY PARK — A former firefighter who was injured on the job is suing one of North Texas’ wealthiest cities, alleging the town refuses to pay for his recovery.

Brad Tucker, 31, filed a lawsuit last week against University Park seeking up to $1 million in damages to help pay for treatment of a back injury he said he suffered on the job.

"I pretty much live in pain all the time," Tucker told News 8. "I feel like I have been kind of betrayed."

Tucker said he hurt his back trying to lift a patient up on a stretcher while responding to a medical call on October 20, 2011. He had lifted countless patients since joining the force in 2005, but this time it somehow threw out his back.

"We were picking him up, and about halfway up I felt sharp pain in my shoulder blades and my neck," he recalled. "It kind of took the breath out of me."

Doctors told Tucker he had several herniated discs.

At first, he received some physical therapy sessions, but doctors decided he would need more extensive treatment — including spinal injections to relieve the pain.

At that point, Tucker said, his former employers resisted paying for treatment and eventually fired him.

The city broadly denied the allegations, but would not discuss the specifics of Tucker's case.

"The allegations in this news release are colorful and provocative but simply not true," said Steve Mace, a spokesman for University Park. He declined to elaborate or explain what specifically isn’t true, saying the city hadn't had the chance to review the lawsuit.

"The city is certainly fully committed to the health and well-being of all of its employees," Mace added.

Five months after the injury, the lawsuit alleges that University Park — which is self-insured — stopped paying workers' compensation benefits and stopped paying for Tucker's treatment.

Tucker said he never got anything more than a few physical therapy sessions.

"My doctors keep sending letters and more literature showing I need these different treatments, and they just keep getting denied," Tucker said. "I don’t know their reasons; I just keep getting letters back showing all these treatments have been denied, denied, denied."

He eventually enlisted the help of Dallas-based attorney Matthew Scott, who filed the lawsuit.

"He got hurt doing his job — taking care of the citizens of University Park," Scott said. "For a city to basically treat him like an old used-up dish rag — it's really deplorable."

Scott points to an order from the Texas Workers' Compensation Board, which reviewed Tucker’s case and declared "claimant has not yet reached maximum medical improvement ... Carrier is ordered to pay benefits in accordance with this decision," according to the paperwork Scott provided to News 8.

"Workman comp is saying 'yes' and the City of University Park is just thumbing their nose at them," Scott said. "In this case, they are just refusing to do so, despite being ordered to by the board."

Tucker now is unemployed; his bosses never considered putting him on light desk duty, he said. He worries about providing for his growing family, since his wife is seven months pregnant.

The former firefighter said he still struggles with pain, and has trouble even playing with his one-year-old daughter.

"All I want to do is get back to work," Tucker said. "I'm tired of hurting. I want to get back to my old self."

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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