Shot Clock Reset on Toledo Sexual Harassment Suit

A well known sexual harassment suit involving the Toledo Fire Department filed in 2005 is back in the news because it has been dismissed… and refiled. The suit was filed by three Toledo firefighters, Captain Carla Stachura, FF Judi Imhoff and FF Geraldine McCalland, who claim they were subjected to gender discrimination, a hostile work environment, and retaliation.

After the case was filed, the three firefighters were terminated because they tape recorded workplace conversations. Each was ordered reinstated by arbitrators.

The case has been kicking around the Ohio court system for nine years, with at least two trips up to the court of appeals. This past summer the parties battled over pre-trial issues including the qualification of expert witnesses and limitations on their testimony.

With the trial scheduled to begin in September and both sides needing a bit more time to prepare, plaintiffs and defendants agreed to a joint motion for a continuance. Unfortunately Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Linda Jennings denied that request, essentially forcing the plaintiffs to begin presenting their case or dismiss it.

While we are not privy as to why the city’s attorneys agreed to do so, the parties entered into a “stipulation and order of dismissal with a right to refile without prejudice in stipulation of the acceptance of service, signed and granted.” Whew… that is a mouthful of legal mumbo jumbo.The practical effect of the stipulation is to reset the proverbial shot-clock for the timing of the case.

I asked our esteemed colleague from Ohio, attorney and fire chief Chip Comstock, to comment on the rather unorthodox shot-clock reset stipulation. Counselor Comstock acknowledged that the parties were placed in a difficult predicament as a result of Judge Jenning’s ruling. “While stipulations like this are not uncommon, its certainly not an everyday occurrence. Without knowing plaintiffs case I am a little surprised that plaintiffs’ counsel is not ready for trial having been up to the court of appeals twice. But getting everything ready for trial is not as easy as it appears.”

Here is more on the case.

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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