PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – In early April, Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy Shannon Bennett was the first South Florida first responder to be killed by COVID-19.
His family was crushed by the loss. Now, they feel like they’ve been dealt another blow, after the AIG insurance company denied their claim for an accidental death in the line of duty.
“Essentially, while my family is grappling with trying to get our bearings back, this type of letter comes in and of course it floors us,” said Darren Bennett, Shannon’s brother.
Darren Bennett says the family was stunned to received a letter in response to their claim, saying the company had reviewed it and determined that COVID-19 did not fall under the category of an injury or accident, but “rather, his death was caused in whole or in part by, or resulted in whole or in part from sickness or disease, specifically excluded under this policy.”
Darren tells Local 10 that BSO submitted an appeal to the company on the family’s behalf, but just a couple weeks later, the claim was denied a second time. The insurance company says that while Florida statutes do classify certain health conditions as “accidental and caused by employment” that doesn’t technically include COVID-19.
“It was bad enough to have a family member, a loved one die, a brother, a best friend, a companion, a son, die, and then you add that to the political war that took place with Sheriff Tony and Jeff Bell, and then you add that to the hateful and homophobic remarks by the chief in Davie then curate that with all the emotions and just the trauma of trying to regain your composure and your bearings and now you get a letter, an insensitive letter, not even a phone call, but just a letter, telling you that this claim has been denied,” Darren Bennett said. “The benefits that would be given to your family are not going to be given out.”
Darren says it’s not about the money anymore and “you can’t put a price tag on Shannon’s life.” He just wants others to know what’s going on.
“For us, it’s about awareness,” he said. “We want to make sure that any other agency that is partnering with AIG would potentially completely dismantle their relationship.”
Local 10 News reached out to AIG, but they declined to comment.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony released the following statement:
“One of the most difficult tragedies to endure in this profession is a line of duty death. We are committed to helping the Bennett family. We pay thousands of dollars each year for this insurance, and I’m extremely disappointed that AIG is denying this claim. We will exhaust all appeals. I have directed my command staff to review our contract with AIG. We hope as we have further dialogue with AIG, they recognize the global impact in [the] message that they are sending to our first responders.”