Appeals court ruling paves way for Orange County firefighter’s widow to seek workers’ comp payout

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A First District Court of Appeals judge has ruled in favor of an Orange County firefighter’s widow, who was fighting for payment promised to her under state law after her husband died of work-related cancer.


The ruling clears the way for her to petition for $150,000 in workers’ compensation benefits related to her husband’s death; something Orange County had questioned whether she was entitled to seek because her husband had accepted a one-time $25,000 payout when he was first diagnosed with work-related brain cancer.

Eric Siena was on the top of his game as an Orange County firefighter before being diagnosed with glioblastoma in January 2020. The devastating brain cancer would take his life in May of 2021.

Read: Orange County firefighter’s cancer claim to go before administrative judge

His wife Christy, who was also a first responder, was left alone to fight the system instead of fires.

“There’s not another decision in the state that has dealt with this issue so far,” attorney Geoff Bichler said during a previous interview with 9 Investigates.

Read: Could a fire put out 15 years ago be responsible for cancer cases among 4 firefighters?

Bichler has been fighting with Siena for the $150,000 payment, arguing that because each portion of the payout is covered by separate portions of the statute, receiving one does not prevent descendants from applying for the other.

“Most employers are operating from the assumption that if they pay this benefit, they’re off the hook for worker’s compensation, and we do not agree with that,” Bichler said.

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Orange County did not respond to a request for comment on this ruling, citing the ongoing litigation in the case.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.

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