Widow seeks 500 weeks of workman’s comp pay

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2014

The widow of a South Alabama Regional Airport and Opp Fire Department firefighter has filed a workman’s compensation suit against her husband’s employers.

Firefighter Jonathan Burgess died on Jan. 8, 2013, of a heart attack during a perimeter check at SARA, the family’s attorney, Eaton Barnard, said.

Barnard said Wednesday that doctors said fatigue from Burgess’ work schedule contributed to his heart attack, and that as a result, Burgess’ widow should be entitled to workman’s comp benefits.


The suit, which was filed with the Covington County Circuit Clerk’s Office, names SARA and the City of Opp as defendants.


“The majority of workman’s comp claims filed are for back injuries,” Barnard said. “But in this case, it was not a back injury. What we’re asking is what is available under law, which is not more than half of his salary for 500 weeks.”

Barnard said his Mobile law office was asked to examine the case because Burgess died while on the job at SARA.

“(Burgess) had been working for two different fire departments, 72 hours a week, non-stop,” Barnard said. “In fact, (Burgess) had worked the week, took off on that Saturday before (his death), goes back to work on Sunday and worked 24 hours straight. He got off Monday morning and was at (SARA) by 8 a.m.

“(Burgess) got called around mid-morning to fight a house fire in Opp, and then went back to Andalusia,” Barnard said. “He spends the night. On Tuesday evening, he and a colleague were doing a perimeter check to scare deer off the runway.

“They see a big one, and his co-worker said he put his hands on his ears, waiting for the shot, but only heard the rifle hit the ground,” Barnard said. “He said he looked over, and Jonathan was gone.

“I asked a doctor if fatigue would have contributed to (Burgess’) death, and the doctor said, ‘Absolutely,’” Barnard said. “That’s why we feel it is a workman’s comp case.”