Judge Abruptly Dismisses Suit Against FDNY

A lawsuit filed by a former FDNY electrician accusing the city of discrimination and retaliation has been dismissed, accompanied by a blistering decision by the trial judge. Edward Pitre filed the action in 2018 alleging race discrimination, retaliation, and a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The case was being heard last week before a jury in US District Court for the Southern District of New York when Judge Denny Chin stopped the trial, and dismissed the action. Judge Chin explained the relatively unusual dismissal decision as follows:

  • On January 22, 2024, the fourth day of trial, I dismissed this action in the interest of justice. I did so for three reasons.
  • First, I concluded that Pitre was attempting to commit a fraud on the Court because he had previously brought — and failed to disclose — a state court case based on the same purported accident that is the basis of this lawsuit.
  • Second, the revelation that Pitre had failed to disclose the prior lawsuit reflected, in my view, “the culmination of circumstances, the poor lawyering throughout.”
  • Third, although Pitre had substantially completed his case, he had presented little, if any, proof from which the jury could rule in his favor.

While each of the three grounds could serve as its own blog post, the first is of greatest interest to firefighters since it involves a line of duty injury Pitre sustained. Quoting from the decision:

  • Pitre testified on Monday, January 22, the fourth day of trial. On direct examination, he testified that on February 27, 2015:
    • I was on the passenger side of the [Fire Department] utility vehicle. As I was exiting out, it had a big pile of snow. There’s actually two steps. I was stepping out, and I slipped and fell onto the sidewalk.
  • He contended that he “fell off [the] truck and slipped.”
  • He testified that he hit the ground and injured his left hand and left shoulder.
  • He claimed that because he was not given “light duty” by the Fire Department after the incident, “[m]y injuries wouldn’t be so severe,” and, consequently, he was “forced to retire” at age 45 when he otherwise would have worked until he was in his 60s.
  • He testified that as a consequence of being forced to retire early, he lost income as “I was only getting one-third of my salary” and suffered emotionally as well. He acknowledged that he was “basically alleging … that [he] was disabled because of the fire department.”
  • Yet, on cross-examination, he admitted that in 2015, he filed a personal injury lawsuit against J&F Meat Market based on the same alleged fall. In the verified complaint in that lawsuit, Pitre alleged that:
    • On February 27, 2015, Plaintiff was walking at the Premises and slipped, tripped, and fell due to icy, black icy, snowy, wet, dirty, hazardous, defective, and unsafe Premises.
  • The Premises were alleged to be “the building at 1975 Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan, New York, and its adjoining sidewalk.”
  • The verified complaint made no mention of a Fire Department vehicle or any vehicle and did not allege that Pitre fell off a truck or that he fell while disembarking from a utility vehicle.
  • The verified complaint alleged that Pitre’s “resulting injuries” were “caused solely” by reason of the negligence and carelessness of the defendants in that case, that is, J&F Meat Market and its parent corporation. It alleged that Pitre was “severely injured” and “rendered sick, sore, lame and disabled,” “some of which injuries are permanent in nature and duration.”
  • It also sought economic damages, as it alleged that Pitre “has suffered and in the future will necessarily suffer additional loss of time and earnings from employment.”
  • It also alleged that Pitre would be “unable to pursue the usual duties with the same degree of efficiency as prior to this occurrence, all to Plaintiff’s great damage.”

Here is a copy of Judge Chin’s decision:

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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