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McFarland v. Town of Oliver Springs

July 11, 2007

DARRELL MCFARLAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWN OF OLIVER SPRINGS, ESTATE OF EDWIN L. KELLEY, INDIVIDUALLY, EDWIN L. KELLEY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MAYOR, AND KENNETH MORGAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF POLICE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This is an action for violation of plaintiff's civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985; for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, and the Tennessee Handicap Act, T.C.A. § 8-50-103; for the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623 and the Tennessee Human Rights Act, T.C.A. § 4-21-101, et seq.; for wrongful and retaliatory discharge pursuant to T.C.A. § 50-6-114; and for extreme and outrageous conduct and infliction of emotional distress arising out of the termination of plaintiff's employment in October 2004. Currently pending is the defendants' motion for summary judgment [Doc. 15]. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted and this action dismissed.

I. Factual Background

The following factual allegations are considered in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and are taken from the plaintiff's complaint [Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 8-52].

Plaintiff Darrell McFarland was hired as a police officer for the Town of Oliver Springs in May 2001. At the time of his hire, he was 47 years old. Approximately six months after Mr. McFarland was hired as an officer, defendant Kenneth Morgan became the Chief of Police. At all times relevant, Edwin Kelley was the Mayor of the Town of Oliver Springs.

As a police officer for Oliver Springs, plaintiff's regular duties included, among other things, service and execution of warrants, carrying of a weapon, apprehension and arrest of subjects, investigation and patrol, issuance of citations, and other duties commonly performed by law enforcement officers. At the time defendant Morgan became the Chief of Police in 2002, Mr. McFarland was a full-time police officer for the Town of Oliver Springs. His duties were the same as a regular officer: "patrolling the City, serving warrants, arresting people." Under Tennessee law, an officer in the plaintiff's position is required to be trained under the State of Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission Program (POST) within six months of the date of his hire. At the time Morgan became Chief of Police, Morgan was aware that McFarland had not been POST-certified, notwithstanding the fact that he had been hired more than six months before.

In July 2003, during Mr. McFarland's performance of his duties as a police officer, he sustained a work-related injury to his right knee while attempting to serve a warrant on a subject. McFarland claims that he gave timely notice of his injury to defendant Morgan. However, Morgan actively discouraged McFarland from filing a workers compensation claim and recommended, instead, that McFarland utilize his own health insurance benefits that provide for medical care. Plaintiff also claims that Morgan violated the City's applicable ordinances by failing to notify the City Administrator of McFarland's injury and McFarland received no medical care from the City.

Sometime thereafter, defendant Morgan, on behalf of the Town of Oliver Springs, advised plaintiff that he intended to send him for training and POST certification. Morgan filled out the necessary documentation and McFarland signed it. Morgan then forwarded the paper work to the State of Tennessee and advised McFarland that he was to report for the POST training in Donelson, Tennessee, in October 2003.

As instructed, McFarland reported to the Training Academy on or about October 26, 2003. However, during the course of the physical training at the Academy, McFarland sustained further injury to his right knee when he felt a painful tear while performing exercises at the Academy. As a result of the injury, McFarland was required to withdraw from the Academy on October 27, 2003, and he returned to his regular duties as a police officer for Oliver Springs.

Chief Morgan received written notification from POST that McFarland had had to withdraw from the Academy on October 27, 2003, because of an injury. Thereafter, Morgan wrote a request to the POST agency for a waiver of the six-month rule for certification of law enforcement officers specifically because "Mr. McFarland suffered a knee injury on the first day of the basic on October 26, 2003."

Plaintiff again claims that despite clear notice and knowledge of this work-related injury, Morgan violated the City's applicable ordinances by failing to notify the City Administrator of McFarland's injury. Likewise, McFarland received no workers compensation benefits for this on-the-job injury.

Following McFarland's withdrawal from the Academy as the result of his injury, the waiver sought by defendant Morgan was granted and McFarland was rescheduled to attend the Training Academy to achieve POST certification beginning in October 2004.

Shortly after receiving notice that he was to attend the Training Academy in October 2004, Morgan advised McFarland that he was "going to have to make it to the Academy that time." He further told McFarland that if he "didn't make it this time we would all be in trouble." McFarland asked him what he meant, and Morgan allegedly told him that Morgan had fabricated McFarland's hiring date from his first application to the POST training to put in there that he had been hired six months prior to sending him to the Academy. McFarland claims that this was the first that he had heard that fabricated paperwork had been sent to the State of Tennessee.

By the time the defendants first attempted to send McFarland to the POST Training Academy, McFarland had already been a police officer for the Town of Oliver Springs for approximately two and a half years. Morgan acknowledged in his deposition that by the time he made efforts to send McFarland to the POST training he was already "out of time." Morgan further admitted that the Town of Oliver Springs violated the requirements of POST by failing to pair Mr. McFarland with a field training officer as he performed his duties while he remained uncertified.

Morgan further admitted filling out an application for POST certification for McFarland with a stated hire date of October 2003. He further admitted that he signed and sent in the application for McFarland with the inaccurate date of hire. Morgan further testified that the Mayor also knew of the altered hire date which was provided to the State of Tennessee.

Prior to the date upon which Mr. McFarland was scheduled to make a second effort at completing POST certification, he sustained another work-related injury to his knee. On or about July 14, 2004, McFarland injured his right knee as he was serving a warrant as a police officer for Oliver Springs. Again, McFarland advised his supervisor, Chief Morgan, of the injury and again, Chief Morgan allegedly violated the law by ...


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