Trenton Fire Hit for $500K in Retaliation Suit

Former Trenton firefighter Jesse Diaz has been awarded $500,000 in his retaliation lawsuit against the city and several fire officers. Dias alleges that after he reported a white firefighter for using the N-word he became the target of several ranking officers.

The jury apparently rejected the city’s argument that Diaz was simply a disgruntled troublemaker who found a convenience excuse for his problems. Apparently they accepted his argument that several fire officers, including the fire chief and a deputy chief who are both African American, purposefully retaliated against him because he reported a white firefighter for using the N-word. [Am I the only one who thinks… that just does not make sense!!!]

However, it appears the jury had some internal problems of its own, leaving open the question of whether the trial and appellate courts will allow the verdict to stand. The problems include the dismissal of two jurors who reportedly were quarreling like a “married couple”, and one juror who reportedly brought outside materials into the deliberation room.

Dias is a combat veteran who served three tours in Iraq and has been diagnosed with combat-related PTSD. He was awarded a partial disability pension from the city in 2014.

The $500,000 award was for compensatory damages associated with the shortening of his career with Trenton, but it is not the end of the case. The jury met today and will continue to deliberate on the issue of punitive damages.

More on the story.

UPDATE: 9/30 16 – The jury has awarded Diaz an additional $250,000 in punitive damages to bring the total judgment to $750,000. More on the update.

 

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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