West Covina and an insurance pool settled the city’s lawsuit that sought compensation for losses the city suffered in losing an employment case trial in 2018, but which was reversed earlier this year on appeal.

Prior to the resolution, attorneys for the Big Independent Cities Excess Pool Joint Powers Authority had argued in their court papers that their client was not obligated to indemnify the city for intentional misconduct regarding the case of former West Covina Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal Jason Briley, who had been a member of the WCFD for nearly a decade before being fired in September 2015.

Under the settlement language, the insurance authority “rescinds and withdraws its denial of coverage for the Briley Action, and instead accepts coverage … without reservation.”

Briley alleged in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in August 2016 that 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 maintained the structure did not undergo proper testing of the alarm system.

Lawyers for the city maintained Briley lost his job for legitimate reasons and that others found it hard to work with him. However, a jury found in Briley’s favor in October 2018 and awarded him $4 million. The city then sued the insurance pool, also in Los Angeles Superior Court, in November 2020 for indemnification, maintaining that it obtained $27 million in coverage intended to protect it against wrongful termination and retaliation claims brought by city employees.

After Briley obtained a judgment against the city, the insurance authority “started trying to wiggle out of its coverage obligations” and claimed that the jury found liability in violation of a state Labor Code section that was an uninsurable wrongful act under the Insurance Code, the city’s suit stated.

On July 1, a three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in the Briley suit reversed part of the judgment as excessive and he chose to have a new trial over the alternative of accepting a reduced award of $1.1 million.

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