Firefighter Victim of Voyeuristic Colleague Files Suit in Washington State

A female firefighter in Washington state who was secretly recorded by a voyeuristic colleague has filed suit against the fire department and the member. The lawsuit filed in US District Court for the Western District of Washington accuses former firefighter Patrick Nicholson, East Jefferson Fire Rescue and Jefferson County with violating the victim’s civil rights, wiretap violations, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and trespass.

The suit further accuses the fire department of negligent hiring, negligent retention and inadequate oversight. Nicholson, who served as a Jefferson County firefighter and fire chief in Discovery Bay and Brinnon, is currently facing two felony charges of voyeurism. More on the criminal charges.

The victim learned of the existence of the recordings from Nicholson’s wife. As explained in the complaint:

  • On June 8, 2021, plaintiff’s sister… contacted plaintiff saying she had received a text message from an individual named Susan.
  • The message stated that plaintiff needed to contact the Sheriff’s Department in Jefferson County and a RCW code was given.
  • Furthermore, the message stated that a crime had taken place on East Jefferson Fire Department property and that plaintiff had been involved.
  • It was later revealed that Trish Nicholson, had sent the message using the name Susan and an anonymous number.
  • Ms. Nicholson is the wife of Patrick Nicholson, who had previously been employed at East Jefferson Fire during an overlapping period of time that plaintiff had been employed there.
  • Ms. Nicholson later informed plaintiff that she had been vague due to concerns regarding the statute of limitations and had wanted the Sheriff’s Department to inform her of the incident in question.
  • The night of June 8, 2021, plaintiff called the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, stating that she had been told through a third party that she may have been the victim in a voyeurism case.
  • The officers told her that they would pass on her information to the Detective in Port Townsend.
  • On June 9, 2021, Detective John Stuart called plaintiff and confirmed that she was named as a victim of Patrick Nicholson and that there were two other victims named originally.
  • He proceeded to tell plaintiff that he had been informed about the case, but it would be a couple of months before the investigation began given he was investigating other cases.
  • The voyeuristic individual being investigated is Patrick Nicholson, who was employed by East Jefferson Fire Rescue as a Firefighter/Paramedic from June 2007 through November 2015.
  • He also was in charge of radio, programming and communication for the department. Plaintiff was employed by East Jefferson Fire Rescue from June of 2011 through 2013 as a Firefighter EMT.
  • Plaintiff and Patrick Nicholson’s employment overlapped for a period of about 2 years, but during this time there was minimal contact.
  • Patrick Nicholson’s departmentally assigned responsibilities afforded him direct access to the private bedrooms where plaintiff was recorded without her consent.
  • In addition to being recorded in the private bedroom while partially nude, Patrick Nicholson also recorded plaintiff with audio and video in various other places around the department.
  • On June 9, 2021, after speaking with the detective, plaintiff left work to try and process what she had been told.
  • On Thursday June 10, 2021, plaintiff called out of work saying that she woke up shaking and was so anxious she was sick to her stomach.
  • She didn’t feel that she was safe in her own home or place of work.
  • The invasion and violation of privacy by East Jefferson Fire Rescue’s voyeuristic employee, Patrick Nicholson, impacted plaintiff both mentally and physically.

Here is a copy of the redacted complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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