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A Better Partnership
March 24, 2009

COA Opinion: City liable for improper termination of two public safety officials

On Friday, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued a published opinion in the consolidated case of Shaw v. City Ecorse (Case Nos. 279997 and 280693). One case involved the termination of the city’s police chief and the other involved the termination of a fire captain.

The fire captain (Case No. 279997) claimed that he was improperly terminated under Michigan’s Whistleblower act, MCL ' 15.362, for expressing opinions about the status of the city’s fire department. The circuit court granted the city’s motion for summary disposition, but the court of appeals reversed, holding that at least some of the fire captain’s comments were protected by the act.

The police chief (Case No. 280693) claimed that he was the victim of age discrimination and a breach of contract when he was forced to retire by the city council. The case went to a jury, which awarded the police chief $1.75 million in damages. The city appealed the verdict, claiming that it should be subject to remittitur due to claimed insufficiency of evidence to support the amount of the non-economic damages award and the amount of the pension benefits award. The court of appeals affirmed the decision in all respects.

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