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Federal court dismisses lawsuit claiming Stow illegally fired former firefighter

Former fire/medic released after 2008, off-duty firework accident that left him blind in one eye

by Jeremy Nobile | Reporter Published: February 4, 2013 7:47 PM
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Stow -- A federal court dismissed a lawsuit earlier today filed in 2011 by a former Stow firefighter/paramedic who lost sight in one eye in 2008 from injuries suffered in a bottle-rocket accident and was subsequently released by the fire department.

Judge John Adams of the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio dismissed all charges against the city Feb. 4.

"We're very pleased with the opinion, obviously," said Stow Law Director Brian Reali. "We think Judge Adams nailed this, and we're happy we can put this behind us."

According to the lawsuit, which was filed May 19, 2011, Anthony Rorrer accused Stow Fire Chief William Kalbaugh of discrimination, failure to accommodate him per the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Ohio Civil Rights Act and unlawful retaliation.

The court ultimately dismissed all claims in a summary judgement issued Monday.

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Rorrer's attorney, Dennis R. Thompson, was not immediately available for comment.

According to court documents, Rorrer was employed in Stow between 1999 and October 2009 when he was released.

He lost sight in his right eye after a July 4, 2008 accident with a bottle rocket while off-duty. He was released in the fall of 2009 after his medical leave dried up.

According to court documents, Rorrer sought authorization to return to work in Stow, but was not granted that.

Rorrer then filed the 2011 lawsuit, claiming that under the ADA, the Stow Fire Department did not grant him reasonable accommodations to work for the city, such as precluding him from operating emergency vehicles with lights and sirens.

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The court found that part of Rorrer's duties in Stow as laid out by the city may include operating emergency vehicles at some point. Rorrer claimed absolving him from that responsibility was reasonable -- the city disagreed, and the court sided with the city.

"He is on a three-man crew, so it should raise no issue if he cannot drive in an emergency situation," wrote Adams in his legal opinion. "In so arguing, Rorrer ignores the very nature of his occupation -- responding to emergency situations. While Rorrer opines ... it is highly unlikely that the need for him to drive would arise, the Court concludes otherwise."

Furthermore, Rorrer claimed his termination was retaliation for him testifying in an arbitration proceeding in March 2008.

According to court documents, Rorrer "seeks to bolster this claim by offering extensive extraneous and irrelevant information that attacks Chief [William] Kalbaugh's integrity," and that Kalbaugh held grudges against anyone who "crossed" him.

Adams' opinion states that Stow relied upon the medical opinion of the department's physician in terminating Rorrer and that his firing was legal.

An official with the Tallmadge Fire Department confirmed Rorrer currently works part time in that department, but doesn't operate safety vehicles with lights or sirens.

Email: jnobile@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400, ext. 4179

This article was updated Feb. 5 to clarify that Rorrer was released from the Stow Fire Department after he ran out of paid medical leave and that he was not working off-duty when the firework accident, but simply off-duty.

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