Court denies benefits to wife of late Georgetown police chief

GEORGETOWN — An expired statute of limitations overrode any claims of line of duty benefits due the wife of a late Sussex County police chief, a judge ruled Monday.

Evelyn Mae Rust Gregg received the decision from Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady in connection with the April 4, 1998, death of her husband Georgetown Police Department Chief Harvey Gregg Jr. On July 22, 2016, she appealed a decision to deny benefits by the Delaware Insurance Commissioner.

The late Mr. Gregg, age 70 when he died, joined the Georgetown Police Department in 1973 and was chief for 20 years.

While amended Delaware Code in 2014 erased any statute of limitations for a death in the line of duty benefit claim, the court also cited the effective date of on or after July 1, 2005, for application.

Thus, Mrs. Gregg’s claim fell under previous law which recognized a three-year statute of limitation.

Also, according to the judge, the Insurance Commissioner properly determined that Mr. Gregg died from natural causes — a heart attack — after directing traffic for a funeral. A doctor testified earlier that “the bleeding of Chief Gregg’s brain and other brain injuries were the result of Chief Gregg being kept alive and would likely not have occurred otherwise,” according to the opinion.

According to the court, Mrs. Gregg did not realize her husband’s death was considered in the line of duty until 2012 when the state of Delaware placed his name on a memorial wall. She argued that the statute of limitations should have begun at that point, which made a claim timely.

The court, however, pointed to “substantial” evidence considered by the Insurance Commissioner that concluded “a reasonable person would have known the probable compensability of Chief Gregg’s death at the time of his passing.”

Mrs. Gregg also maintained that the town of Georgetown, not the insurance commissioner, can challenge a death benefits claim. The town “did not rebut the claim, rather it recognized that Chief Gregg had died in the line of duty by including him in a memorial wall,” according her brief to court papers.

Judge Brady referenced Delaware Code giving the state’s Insurance Coverage Office “the responsibility of adjusting all claims and paying losses in risks covered by the Fund, and shall carry out its duties in conformity with appropriate regulations … with the accepted practice in the commercial insurance industries in such matters …”

The matter was properly taken to court, Judge Brady said, citing Delaware Code expressly stating that “[a]ny dispute between the Insurance Coverage Office and a claimant … which cannot be amicably resolved, may be made the subject of litigation in any court of competent jurisdiction in this State.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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