Compromise reached on fired Cabell paramedic's discovery request

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 27, 2009

HUNTINGTON - Prior to a hearing, an 11th hour compromise was reached regarding discovery requests in a former Cabell County paramedic's wrongful termination suit.

A hearing had been scheduled for March 9 on a motion to compel the Cabell County Emergency Medical Services provide records sought by Robert Jobe, a CCEMS paramedic who was fired in 2007. Jobe's co-counsel, George Morrone III, with the Ranson Law Offices in Charleston, made the motion following the objection of CCEMS' attorneys to provide them.

Specifically, Morrone was seeking the employment records of four past and current CCEMS employees. Records show Paul Damron, Roger Dillon, Ken Nance and Mary Beth Newton were named in Morrone's request.

According to the Cabell County Commission, which oversees CCEMS, Damron, Dillon and Nance are currently employed as paramedics, and have been since 1986, 2001 and 1996, respectfully. Newton, however, has not been employed by CCEMS since July 1, 2007.

On the day of the hearing, a note on the docket sheet in front of Judge David M. Pancake's office said "cancelled." A woman in Pancake's office said Mike Ranson called the Friday before saying that the hearing would not be necessary as he and CCEMS' attorney Steven K. Nord, with the Huntington law firm of Offutt and Nord, reached a compromise regarding the requests.

Though when contacted, both Nord and Ranson declined to comment on the specifics of the compromise, the request seems to suggest that CCEMS policies regarding absenteeism were not followed.

Absenteeism in dispute

In his original complaint filed on Dec. 20, 2007, Jobe, now 37, alleged he was discharged from CCEMS on July 28, 2007 "on account of his disability." Jobe, who was hired as a paramedic on Nov. 18, 2005 and worked at Station # 3 on 8th Ave. in Huntington, did not specify his disability which Nord pointed out in CCEMS' initial reply on Jan. 23, 2008.

"Nowhere in the complaint does the Plaintiff describe or specify the nature of the disability," Nord said. Also, he stated that CCEMS was unaware of any such disability.

A week later Ranson offered more specifics saying that Jobe suffered from a "Lumbar Disc Disease." He rebutted CCEMS' denying knowledge of Jobe's disability saying that CCEMS "is in possession of various documents confirming the Plaintiff's disability as well as written agreements as to how both parties would reach mutual accommodation."

According to Ranson, Jobe provided CCEMS a letter dated April 5, 2007 detailing his condition. Both Jobe and CCEMS reached an agreement on July 12 that "if his back injury caused him not to be able to work that he was to stay home."

However, upon returning to work, Jobe was to provide CCEMS a doctor's excuse.

On July 28, Ranson said Jobe had a "flare-up" and was unable to report to work. Upon informing his supervisors of his condition, they, pursuant to the agreement, told him to stay home, and bring a doctor's excuse when he reported to work again.

When he did a few days later, he was told that he'd been fired and handed a termination letter. The letter, which was signed by CCEMS' director and assistant director A. Gordon Merry III and Steve Murray, and dated July 28, listed the reason for Jobe's termination as "excessive absenteeism."

As a result of his termination, Ranson maintained that Jobe suffered emotional distress, embarrassment and mental anguish. Should CCEMS not agree to reinstate him, Jobe is seeking front pay and the loss of future income and back pay for his alleged injuries.

Records show prior to his termination, Jobe's salary was $32,964.

On Feb. 27, 2008, CCEMS filed a formal answer to Jobe's lawsuit denying his allegations.

Tentatively, a pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled for April 2 with trial slated to begin on April 14 at 9:30 a.m. However, Ranson said the trial date could be pushed back another 60-90 days.

Cabell Circuit Court, Case No. 07-C-1122

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