EVERETT — The Everett City Council has approved a $1.2 million settlement with a former firefighter who claimed he got melanoma because of his work.
The Wednesday vote marks the end of a decade-long saga that started when Michael Weaver was diagnosed with a melanoma on his upper back in 2011. The 18-year Everett Fire Department employee had that quickly removed, then filed a small claim for the five weeks he missed work. Less than $10,000 was at stake.
The state Department of Labor and Industries rejected it in 2012. The next year, a state board denied Weaver’s appeal, arguing his exposure as a firefighter didn’t cause his medical condition.
Weaver grew up in Texas, where he reportedly got painful sunburns as a child, according to a 2011 medical examination. The city argued this was the cause of his melanoma.
The case took a turn in January 2014, when Weaver was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. His doctors found his prior bout had caused metastatic brain cancer.
Weaver filed another claim against the city that year. Labor and Industries again rejected it, saying he couldn’t apply for relief for the same disease that was already denied. He appealed it to the Snohomish County Superior Court. That court also rejected his appeal.
In 2018, he went to the state Court of Appeals. This time, the court disagreed with the prior rulings.
From there, it went to the state Supreme Court. Justices affirmed the appellate court ruling in 2019.
“That then results in a start over,” said Jeff Keane, the attorney for Weaver. “It did not result in Mike so-called ‘winning’ his case. It resulted in him being able to again prosecute his case.”
That’s when the city came to Weaver to discuss a settlement, Keane said. On Wednesday, after 1½ years of negotiations, the Everett City Council approved $1.2 million to settle the case.
The settlement notes Weaver’s family can’t file a separate claim against the city in the event of his death.
Keane estimated Weaver could’ve gotten around $3 million between attorney’s fees and a hefty pension if he won the case in court. But that could’ve taken another decade. And he could’ve ended up losing and getting nothing.
Everett City Attorney David Hall argued this was the best move for taxpayers. The city’s insurance deductible at the time of Weaver’s first claim was $750,000. So Everett’s insurance provider will pay the remaining $450,000.
In settling, the city is not conceding that Weaver’s work with the fire department caused his illness. It is only acknowledging that it would be prudent to compromise rather than litigate for years, according to the agreement.
“They had the choice to continue that position for the next 10 years and they didn’t do that, and I thought that was wise and judicious and sensible,” Keane said. “This was a compromise and we didn’t get all we wanted, but that’s why I love a couple of my favorite mediators who always say, ‘If both sides are unhappy, probably a good settlement.’ And I think it’s fair to say both sides are not happy.”
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; email@example.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.