A firefighter was awarded more than $2.3 million in a wrongful termination and retaliation lawsuit against the city of Vallejo, California. He claimed two high-ranking officers from the fire department targeted him for reporting protocol violations that occurred during a fire rescue incident on September 29, 2011.
Todd Milan, 47, filed the lawsuit in Solano County Superior Court in 2013. Milan alleged the Vallejo fire department’s command staff retaliated against him for complaining to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) about procedural irregularities during a deadly mobile home fire that killed a disabled man.
During the rescue, Milan expected battalion Capt. Erick Diez to accompany him into the home as firefighters are required to enter burning structures in pairs. He entered the building thinking Diez was right behind him. However, the captain did not come to help, leaving Milan inside for 90 seconds to save the resident. Unable to save him without help, Milan was forced to leave the home and the resident due to the extreme heat and flashover. According to the lawsuit, Diez did not enter the mobile home with Milan because he had not put on his gloves.
Milan suffered third-degree burns on his hands and sustained burns to his face and other parts of his body. The complaint alleged supervisors told Milan his account of the incident should match those of other firefighters. Following an investigation and Milan’s report, OSHA issued a violation notice to the fire department for the captain’s failure to use the buddy system and wear gloves at the time of the fire.
Milan was dismissed in 2012 after failing his 30th month examination. He alleged the fire department retaliated against him by not permitting him to retake it. A jury awarded the firefighter damages for emotional distress and lost wages after a nine-week trial.