Jury Awards Fired Calif. Firefighter $2.3MIRMA WIDJOJO ON MAR 22, 2016
March 22--A jury awarded a former Vallejo firefighter more than $2.3 million Friday at the end of a nine-week long trial in a case against the city.
Todd Milan, 47, sued the city alleging retaliation in 2013 after his employment was terminated in 2012.
The jury took about two days to deliberate before awarding Milan $2,357,089, $400,000 of which for emotional distress, while the rest is for past and future wage lost, said his lawyer Leslie Levy.
"We were ecstatic (with the verdict)," Levy said. "It vindicated him. The jury found that he had been retaliated against."
The Oakland-based lawyer said Milan's dismissal stemmed from a mobile home fire in 2011 that killed a paraplegic resident and injured the firefighter.
Milan was ready to enter the burning structure at the Olympia of Vallejo mobile home park to rescue the man, when he looked back to see his captain getting ready to go in with him.
"All (the captain) had to do was put on his helmet and gloves," Levy said.
Vallejo firefighters are supposed to enter into a burning structure in pairs, she added.
Milan then went ahead to go into the home after hearing screaming from inside expecting his captain to be seconds behind him.
However, while inside the blazing home, Milan did not see his captain. He then tried to pull the resident out of the bed but had to leave the structure because of a flashover, Levy said.
"He could have died if he didn't leave," she said.
The resident, Jimmy Brown II, 39, was eventually rescued from the house, but later succumbed to his injuries.
Due to the fire, Milan sustained third-degree burns on his hands, second-degree burns to his face and first- and second-degree burns to his back. He was out of duty for about six months.
Following the fire, Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the incident.
Milan was told by his supervisors, including the fire chief at that time, that his story should "match everybody else's," Levy said.
Due to Milan's report, the fire department received a notice of violation by OSHA for the captain not having his gloves at the time for the fire, and for the failure to adhere to the buddy system by Milan and the captain, Levy said.
Milan, who was still an apprentice, was later dismissed after not passing his 30th month examination.
Like all new hires, Milan, who was hired in 2009, had to go through a three-year apprenticeship at the beginning of his career at the Vallejo Fire department.
Levy contends that the chief was using the examination as an excuse to retaliate against Milan for his OSHA reports.
Since then, Milan has been teaching paramedic classes to doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians.
"He wants to go back to the fire service, but he hasn't been hired because of his termination record," Levy said.
Milan was a Silicon Valley salesman when he decided to go into public service in his 30s, and was hired by the Vallejo Fire Department at 41 years old.
The city has 60 days to appeal the case.
"We are very disappointed in the result, and are currently considering our options," said City Attorney Claudia Quintana in an email.
According to the city council meeting agenda, the case is set to be discussed during the closed session Tuesday.
"(Milan) loves the fire service," Levy said. "It saddened him to see the lack of integrity of a few people in the fire department, but he still holds the fire service as a whole in high regard."
Contact Irma Widjojo at 707-553-6835.
Copyright 2016 - Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif.