Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summit County appeals court reverses trial court in bus driver retaliation case

The Ninth District Court of Appeals, which covers Summit County, has reversed the decision of a Summit County Court of Common Pleas that excluded certain evidence in an employment discrimination case against Nordonia Hills School District.

In that case, a bus driver had been terminated in 1998, allegedly for refusing to park her bus where it would have blocked a handicap sidewalk cutout. She subsequently filed a lawsuit and won her case after a jury trial. However, the court of appeals reversed the judgment and granted the school district a new trial. Before the new trial could take place, though, the parties reached a settlement. The bus driver was subsequently reinstated to her position in 2000.

In 2005, the bus driver was terminated again. This time, the bus driver essentially alleged that the school district terminated her in 2005 in retaliation for the prior litigation. She argued that certain individuals within the school district resented the prior litigation and the settlement she obtained. Further, she asserted that those
individuals purposefully set out to construct a documented disciplinary record that could serve as a basis for termination, not because she was an unfit bus driver, but because they intended to retaliate against her for the 1998 litigation.

The trial court, however, excluded almost all evidence of the 1998 settlement. The court of appeals found that the bus driver should have been able to submit such evidence and thus reversed the court of appeals.

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