Annals of Workers’ Comp: The Case of the 88 Year Old Baggage Handler
For those who attended one of the workers comp "curiosities" sessions at the Renaissance annual meeting in Newport, nothing was more curious than the case of the 88 year old baggage handler. If you did not attend, you are likely wondering why an 88 year old man was handling up to 500 bags per shift for Spirit Airlines. What was the airline thinking?
Nazem Amine was not your ordinary "older" worker. He wrestled for Lebanon in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, winning a bronze medal in Rome. He moved to the U.S. in 1967. After Amine's first wife died in 1993, the then 66 year-old married a 29 year-old woman, with whom he had a daughter: clearly, Amine was never interested in acting his age. Bored with retirement after a career in the food industry, he took a job as a baggage handler in his mid-70s. All went well for 16 years - in itself an amazing feat - until a spring day in 2015, when he suffered a hernia while handling approximately 500 bags.
His claim for workers comp benefits was uncontested. Following surgery for the hernia, however, he suffered from pneumonia, congestive heart failure and finally, a fatal heart attack at age 90. The family argues that Amine's death was the end result of a causal chain beginning with the hernia; the airline is likely arguing that Amine's age simply caught up with him. The workers comp claim is being litigated; meanwhile, the family is suing for $720,000 to cover the formidable medical expenses - half the settlement would go to Medicare and half to the family for out-of-pocket expenses.
The fatality claim is working its way through the comp system, so I'm not sure why the family is filing a separate lawsuit. However the dispute is resolved, we should not lose sight of the amazing spirit of this formidable immigrant, who redefined the notion of staying busy and productive deep into his 8th decade.