Smyrna Fire Lieutenant Prevails in Disability Case
Parks, Chesin & Walbert’s 2018 is off to a great start with a jury verdict of almost $200,000 on behalf of a firefighter who was wrongfully terminated. In October of 1990, Allen Goble joined the Smyrna Fire Department. For the next 23 years and 7 months, he devoted his life to being a first responder. Like many firefighters and emergency medical technicians, Allen thrived on the adrenaline rush of heading to fire and accident scenes and saving lives. This work can take a toll as well. After years of witnessing some of the most profound human tragedies that most of us never encounter, and after witnessing the death of a small child, Allen developed anxiety disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While he tried to endure his suffering in private for some period of time, he and his family took the courageous step of informing the Fire Department of his diagnosis.
The City’s reaction was not what Allen expected. Even though Allen was regularly attending therapy every two weeks, the City sent him to its own psychologist, who recommended that Allen be placed on a “return to work” agreement, which the City termed a “last chance agreement” or a “zero tolerance” policy. So, rather than help Allen and work with his limitations, the City decided to double-down and place him under heightened scrutiny. Within seven months, Allen was fired for violating the return to work agreement.
The lawyers of Parks, Chesin & Walbert helped Allen fight back. He filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act for his discriminatory termination. The road was long. The City of Smyrna was well represented by Elarbee Thompson, and going into trial both sets of counsel perceived there was a real risk that the jury would find for the other side. But on March 2, 2018, after a week-long trial, a jury in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta returned a verdict and awarded Allen his lost wages of $90,000 and another $100,000 for his emotional distress. The Court will now weigh Allen’s claims for additional lost wages, pension benefits, health insurance and his attorney’s fees. The case is Allen Goble v. City of Smyrna, case number 1:15-cv-00801-AT in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia.
PCW partner Andy Coffman tried the case for the Plaintiff. The case is Allen Goble v. City of Smyrna.