Jury Awards $224k To Cincinnati Fire Lieutenant

The jury has returned in the Cincinnati race discrimination lawsuit brought by Lieutenant Mark Broach, leaving both sides to claim victory… of sorts.

Lt. Broach alleges he was targeted by the department after he came to the defense of  another black firefighter who was being discriminated against. He claims after he filed a complaint about his own discrimination, he was falsely accused by two white officers of neglect of duty in 2010, and thereafter placed on unpaid leave.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in January 2012. Here is a copy of the complaint and amended complaint that set forth Lt. Broach’s factual allegations.

Broach v Cincinnati

Broach Amended

According to news reports, the jury rejected Lt. Broach’s race discrimination claim, but found in his favor on hostile work environment and retaliation claims, awarding him $224,000 in backpay and damages. His attorney Al Gerhardstein was quoted in The Republic as saying "This is a real wake-up call to the city."

Aaron Herzig, deputy city solicitor, was quoted in The Republic as saying "We're obviously disappointed with the jury's finding of liability on three of the claims but it is important to note that they found for the city on the race discrimination. … There was not discrimination here based on race, and that's important for the city."

It is unclear if Herzig misspoke, was misquoted, or whether there were in fact four separate claims made. Both the complaint and the amended complaint contain three counts:

  • discrimination and retaliation under federal law
  • discrimination and retaliation under state law
  • violation of equal protection

All three of these counts involve allegations of race discrimination. In hopes of pinning things down a bit more, I located the jury instructions, and they show that Lt. Broach was making three slightly different claims at trial:

  • Race discrimination under state and federal law
  • Hostile work environment
  • Retaliation for a protected activity

That just made things even more confusing because the jury instructions do not appear to directly align with the allegations in the complaint. Perhaps our learned friend Chief Comstock might be so gracious to explain Ohio trial practice to us non-Ohioan attorneys.

At any rate, here is a copy of the jury instructions. Jury Instructions

Those currently in fire law classes (my Providence College students included) – take the time to read through them and get a sense for how a judge instructs a jury.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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