Cumberland County Deputy Wins Suit Against County
Posted January 18, 2006 6:37 a.m. EST
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — People in uniform don't expect big paychecks, but they do count on good benefits. So when a deputy got a life-threatening medical problem, he was surprised the county didn't pay. He fought the government to foot the bill -- and won.
The case started in 2002, after Cumberland County Dep. Alfred Ferreyra gave someone CPR at a gas station. He started feeling sick, and his head hurt.
"It got to the point where it [was] throbbing, constant throbbing," said Ferreyra.
His wife took him to the hospital.
"Thirty minutes, they came out and said, 'The doctor's going to come and see you,' and [my wife] says, 'Why? He's got a headache.'" said Ferreyra. "[They said,] 'No, he's got an aneurysm.'"
The doctors saved his life, but the bill totaled up to almost $500,000. Ferreyra wasn't worried. He assumed the county would pick up part of the tab. He saw this as an open-and-shut case of worker's compensation.
"I wasn't fooling around, messing around, doing something stupid," said Ferreyra. "I was performing a task -- saving another person's life."
But the county said no. Lawyers argued his job didn't cause the aneurysm. It just happened while he was on the clock.
"This was closer to the case of having a heart attack in the course of performing your normal duties...that applying CPR was just part of this deputy's normal duties," said Cumberland County attorney Grainger Barrett.
The state Court of Appeals sided with Ferreyra. The judges agreed -- CPR's tough, and it could have led to the aneurysm.
Ferreyra left his county job years ago, and joined the Hope Mills police force. Now, with a new department and new outlook, he goes on.
"Life could go quick -- just in the blink of an eye," he said.
County lawyers have 30 days to appeal to the state Supreme Court, which they say they probably won't do because the most recent ruling against them was unanimous.