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BFC attorney files dismissal motion

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Oct. 26, 2017) An attorney representing the Berlin Fire Company has filed a motion to dismiss the $500,000 federal lawsuit that alleges discrimination in the workplace and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Jo Anna Schmidt of Baltimore law firm Schmidt, Dailey & O’Neill filed the motion last Thursday on grounds that former company paramedic Jeffrey James Dean submitted his Title VII civil rights suit too late.

Dean filed suit against the fire company on Sept. 12 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, but was notified of his right to sue by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 202 days earlier. The window for initiating litigation was within 90 days of notification, according to court filings.

The 16-page complaint issued by Dean and his attorney, James L. Otway of Otway Russo, said Dean “witnessed innumerable racial, sexual and other insults made by senior fire company officials, including then chief Byron Trimble and Assistant Chief Derrick Simpson, President David Fitzgerald and EMS Supervisor, Norris Phillip Donohue Sr.”

The complaint said Dean witnessed the harassment of Zackery Tyndall (now a Berlin Town Councilman), who settled his own lawsuit against the fire company in 2015. Tyndall had requested $2 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages, but the specifics of the settlement were not made public.

According to Schmidt’s 12-page memorandum, Dean filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a right-to-sue letter dated Feb. 23, 2017.

“The 90-day limitation under Title VII is nonjurisdictional and more akin to a statute of limitations,” Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt also contended, “[The] Plaintiff’s Complaint is devoid of any facts or allegations of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ or ‘wrongful conduct’ by Defendant that prevented him from timely filing his lawsuit … As a result, Defendant is entitled to dismissal of Plaintiff’s Complaint with Prejudice.”

Attorneys from both parties did not respond to requests for comment.