State will pay medical bills in victory for ailing trooper

By Mike Oliver

The state has agreed to pay the medical bills of a Florida trooper who attributes his liver failure to being poisoned by drug dealers.

Richard “Spanky” Chapman, who underwent a liver transplant in January 1996, received notice on Monday that he will get workers’ compensation benefits.

“This is a great, great victory for Spanky,” said Russell Troutman Chapman’s lawyer. “He has the security now of knowing that his medical bills will be paid for life.”

The state had originally turned down Chapman’s request. But according to the settlement, the state now agrees on a job accident date – Nov. 18, 1988 – which led to Chapman’s liver problems.

The state will cover all bills relating to the liver condition but will not pay for kidney problems Chapman is having, according to the settlement. The lawyer for the state did not return a phone call.

Chapman, who is back at work for the Florida Highway Patrol doing office work, also will receive disability income if he is unable to work in the future, Troutman said.

“I’m pleased,” said Chapman, who fatigues easily now. “I’ve had insurance, but there’s a cap on that. If something down the road happened big, I would have been in trouble. I’ve got a lifetime of medications and testing ahead of me.”

The state originally denied Chapman’s claim, saying it was filed after the two-year statute of limitations and that there was no link between his mysterious ailment and the job.

Chapman said he thought he was poisoned in 1988 when he handled packages of drugs that were soaked in chemicals to mask the smell of the drugs. Chapman, who said he doesn’t drink and has no family history of liver disease, started having liver problems shortly after that incident

Chapman was a pioneer in the patrol’s use of dogs to find illegal drugs transported on state roads. He and a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Abby helped seize nearly $50 million worth of illegal drugs and made nearly 1,000 arrests from 1983 to 1991.

In those days, Chapman often searched cars bare-handed. Troopers now use gloves.

In 1992, Abby got sick and died of liver failure.

The Orlando Sentinel
Wed., JULY 30, 1997

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