West Covina is suing an insurance pool asking that it be required to pay for $4 million in losses the city suffered after losing an employment case trial in 2018.
The city brought the case Nov. 25 in Los Angeles Superior Court against Big Independent Cities Excess Pool Joint Powers Authority, asking for a declaration of the rights and duties of the parties under their agreement.
A representative of the authority could not be immediately reached for comment.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury in October 2018 found in favor of former West Covina Deputy Fire Marshal Jason Briley, who had been a member of the WCFD for nearly a decade before being fired in September 2015.
Briley alleged he was fired in retaliation for reporting numerous alleged fire safety violations, including the fire department’s decision allowing a company, AltaMed Medical and Dental Group, to remain open while the building in which it was located was undergoing construction.
Briley maintains the structure did not undergo proper testing of the alarm system.
Defense attorneys maintained Briley lost his job for legitimate reasons and that others found it hard to work with him.
The city obtained $27 million in coverage from the insurance authority intended to protect the municipality against such claims as wrongful termination and retaliation brought by city employees and West Covina paid all of its required premiums, the suit states.
After Briley obtained a judgment against the city — which is accruing interest– the insurance authority “started trying to wiggle out of its coverage obligations” and now claims that the jury found liability in violation of a state Labor Code section that is an uninsurable wrongful act under the Insurance Code, the suit states.
The insurance authority is also now maintaining it did not get some reports about the status of the litigation before trial and that this precludes coverage, even though it did not raise the issue until Briley won the case, the suit states.
The city has appealed the Briley verdict to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
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