Supreme Court judge rules in favor of Pascoag Fire in suit over 2016 firing of EMT

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BURRILLVILLE – A Rhode Island Supreme Court judge dismissed the appeal this week of a lawsuit against the Pascoag Fire District over termination of an EMT in 2016 by former Chief Harold Carter.

Augustine Eddy, plaintiff in the suit, had claimed breach of contract over his termination, which followed an incident that year in which his patient later died, according to the opinion issued Friday, Jan. 14.

Affirming a ruling in Superior Court, Justice Lynch Prata also issued a summary judgement in favor of the Pascoag Fire and Rescue Association and the International Association of Firefighters, Local 4908, bringing an end to claims alleging breach of duty of fair representation.

Eddy, who began working per diem in Pascoag in 1997, reportedly became a full time employee for the village district in 2013. In January of 2016, complaints from his partner regarding his job performance led the district to present the EMT with a plan for remedial training.

“Eddy was given three months to show improvement before the district would consider suspension,” the ruling notes.

On March 27, 2016, the firefighter/EMT and three coworkers were dispatched to transport a 37-year-old patient with paraplegia experiencing difficulty breathing, and Eddy was reportedly the primary patient caregiver.

“During the transport, the patient lost consciousness and ultimately passed away at the hospital,” the decision notes. “The plaintiff was told that night that he was suspended, with pay, pending an investigation.”

Eddy alleged that Carter, “‘basically threatened’ him by claiming that things would get worse for Eddy if he pursued the issue.” He was ultimately terminated, with Carter citing deficiencies in his job performance, and Eddy contacted the union alleging wrongful termination.

“This grievance was rejected by Chief Carter on the grounds that Eddy had failed to exercise good judgment and take basic actions during a critical situation—the March 27, 2016 transport incident,” court documents note.

The union reportedly decided not to seek arbitration for the grievance.

But according to Eddy, one day before the deadline to submit the matter, he was informed that the union would proceed to arbitration if he retained an attorney at his own expense. The plaintiff said he was unable to retain an attorney and the deadline passed.

“Eddy sought no further relief through the administrative process,” the court ruling notes.

In 2019, a Superior Court justice rendered a bench decision finding that Eddy had failed to exhaust the grievance
and arbitration proceedings before filing suit.

The full Supreme Court decision, found here, affirms the Superior Court ruling in favor of the union and the PFD.

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