Injured California Firefighter Suing For Retaliation

A Vallejo, California firefighter who suffered second and third degree burns while trying to save a victim’s life has filed suit following his dismissal in November 2012 alleging the city illegally retaliated against him. Todd Milan filed the suit against the City of Vallejo in Solano County Superior Court.

Milan’s problems began at a fire in a mobile home park on September 29, 2011 that claimed the life of a severely disabled person. Milan alleges he was ordered by Battalion Chief Patrick Dunn “to break down the door of the burning structure”, whereupon he entered alone because his officer, Captain Erick Diez, was not properly attired.

Milan alleges he was “forced to leave the structure without removing the victim from the structure, because the fire intensified to extremely high temperatures presenting imminent threat of death. The victim did not survive.” Milan sustained second and third degree burns which kept him out of work for an extended period.

The complaint continues:

While on leave, in October 2011, Plaintiff was called in to Chief Meyer’s office, where he was yelled at and falsely accused of being at fault for the victim’s death.

On or about November 16, 2011, while Plaintiff was still on leave, Captain Diez presented Plaintiff with a written reprimand, containing false statements about the participation of Captain Diez and the Plaintiff in the fire.

Following the fire, Captain Diez prepared a number of Fire Investigation reports, including a report that was later provided to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“DOSH”), which investigated the fire and the Fire Department’s response to the fire. In the Fire Investigation reports, Captain Diez, and possibly others, made a number of false statements regarding the actions of Captain Diez and the Plaintiff in relation to the fire.

Milan claims that during the DOSH investigation he truthfully answered the questions and explained what happened. Thereafter he suffered a number of retaliatory job actions culminating in his termination in November, 2012.

The complaint includes a number of factual allegations that ordinarily would be sufficient to make a case for:

  • Wrongful termination
  • Whistleblower discrimination/retaliation
  • ADA violation (failure to accommodate a known disability, failure to engage in an interactive process)
  • Intention infliction of severe emotional distress
  • Violation of the California Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act
  • Due process violations
  • Fraud

However, the 12 page 89 paragraph complaint listed only alleged two counts:

  • Count I – Retaliation under state Labor Code § 1102.5
  • Count II – Violation of California Family Rights Act

At least it won’t get removed to federal court!!!!

Here is a copy of the complaint.  Complaint 10.31.13

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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