Retaliation claimed when fire marshal is fired. $4M. Los Angeles County.
Fire marshal says he cited unsafe buildings and was later terminated; City says he was unable to get along with other employees.
- Case Name: Jason Briley v. City of West Covina
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC630552
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, October 31, 2018
- Date Action was Filed: Monday, August 15, 2016
- Type of Action: Employment, Wrongful Termination
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Terry A. Green
- Plaintiffs: Jason Briley, 41, deputy fire marshal.
- Defendants: City of West Covina
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $4,003,000
- Economic Damages:
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 12 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 2 1/2 hours.
- Jury Polls: 12-0 liability and economic damages; 10-2 non-economic damages.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defense will file a motion for new trial and/or appeal.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Law Offices of Gregory W. Smith by Gregory Smith and Diana Wang-Wells, Beverly Hills.
Public Employees Legal, LLP by Oshea Orchid, Los Angeles.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Jones & Mayer by Harold W. Potter, Fullerton.
- Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Karen Smith, economics, Pasadena.
- Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Carolin Larson, private investigation.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Plaintiff was a deputy fire marshal for the City of West Covina for eight years. Plaintiff repeatedly complained about City-owned properties that were in violation of California fire codes. Plaintiff also complained that the city was accepting revenue before building fire codes were approved from developers. These complaints were made to the fire chief and the city manager and his human resources director. After making these complaints, plaintiff was terminated. Plaintiff's complaints were made over a period of about two years.
Once plaintiff complained to the HR director, she initiated an investigation against the fire chief and the city manager. Once they learned of the investigation, they initiated an investigation against plaintiff. The HR director resigned before the investigations were concluded. The investigation against the fire chief and city manager found no misconduct and the investigation against plaintiff was determined to be founded (rude and unprofessional in dealing with the public.) Thus, plaintiff was terminated.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That defendant city retaliated against plaintiff for making complaints and that the investigation completed by the city was false and inaccurate.
- Defendant's Contentions:
That plaintiff was rude, arbitrary, capricious, retaliatory in selective enforcement and overbearing in enforcing the fire code with the public and that he was unable to get along with other city employees. Plaintiff’s allegations of accepting revenue before fire codes were approved was disputed. In fact, plaintiff would raise trivial issues to impede building progress to set-up his retaliation claims.
That plaintiff stole confidential information from a personnel file for his benefit. That plaintiff was untruthful on several occasions to cover up his incompetence and retaliatory enforcement of fire codes.
That on one occasion, plaintiff closed a business and then allowed it to re-open over the telephone without a visual inspection, which he lied about and then, a month or so later, prior to an investigation into his conduct, recanted. That plaintiff verbally abused citizens and threatened other employees.
Defendants denied retaliation against plaintiff and argued that they were justified in terminating plaintiff.
Injuries and Other Damages
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $1,500,000
- Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $400,000