Bridgeport Firefighter Loses Third Bid To Reverse Termination

A Bridgeport, Connecticut firefighter who was terminated in 2012 following his arrest for insurance fraud, has lost a third lawsuit alleging that he was wrongful terminated. James Jackson was accused of falsely reporting that several thousand dollars worth of personal items had been stolen in a burglary in order to collect from his insurer.

Police received two anonymous calls reporting that Jackson had staged the burglary.  When confronted by police, Jackson confessed to claiming certain items were stolen that had not been. Thereafter Jackson cooperated with police and made restitution with the insurers.

Following a disciplinary hearing, Jackson was terminated from the Bridgeport Fire Department. Bridgeport Firefighters IAFF Local 834 grieved his termination. Following a hearing before the Connecticut State Board of Mediation and Arbitration, the termination was upheld. Local 834 then filed the first lawsuit on Jackson’s behalf, seeking to vacate the CSBMA decision. The Connecticut Superior Court upheld the CSBMA decision in 2014.

Jackson filed a second suit in US District Court for the District of Connecticut alleging reverse discrimination, contending that “Black and Hispanic BFD employees with similar or more serious disciplinary problems or criminal charges on their records were treated more favorably than he was and not terminated or charged with the same violations of BFD or City of Bridgeport rules.” The suit also alleged several state law claims, including violations of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The district court dismissed Jackson’s federal claims in 2016, concluding the cases of more favorable treatment he sought to use were not comparable. The court declined to exercise jurisdiction over his state law claims. That ruling prompted Jackson to file the third suit, this one in Connecticut Superior Court reasserting his state law claims.

In the third suit, the city claimed it was entitled to prevail as a matter of law based on the previous court rulings. Quoting from the decision:

  • The defendants have moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff’s claims are barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel because the plaintiff previously asserted these same claims against them in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. §1983.
  • The plaintiff responds that although the District Court entered summary judgment against him in connection with his federal claims, the District Court specifically refused to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims, and that those claims are therefore legally viable and unaffected by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel.
  • The court concludes that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment in connection with the plaintiff’s claims of discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment because those claims are barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel.
  • The court also concludes that even if these claims are not barred by res judicata/collateral estoppel, the defendants are nevertheless entitled to summary judgment for all of the reasons set forth in the District Court’s detailed memorandum of decision.
  • The court also concludes that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment in connection with the plaintiff’s claims of negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress because those claims are also barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel, and because there is no genuine issue of material fact that the plaintiff was terminated for just cause.t concludes that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all counts of the plaintiff’s complaint.

The court went on the explain its reasoning in detail. Here is a copy of the ruling:

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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