Morgantown responds to firefighter lawsuit

MORGANTOWN — The City of Morgantown responded to the lawsuit filed by its firefighters, who said holiday pay was withheld for years.
In the same case, the assigned judge recused herself.
The suit was initially assigned to Judge Debra Scudiere, who recused herself from hearing the case because she represented Morgantown during her time in private practice, according to a court order. Judge Phillip Gaujot is now assigned the case.
The five-page response offers several defenses and notes they are hypothetical in some cases and “are being asserted regardless of apparent consistency.” As the case progresses, some defenses may be abandoned, modified or amended. No discovery has taken place as of Monday’s filing, the response notes.
Some of the defenses include the laches doctrine, basically a lack of diligence and activity in making a legal claim, immunity through the West Virginia Governmental Tort Claims and Insurance Reform Act, the plaintiff’s own contributory negligence and a complete lack of negligence by the city.
The new filing also responds individually to 21 claims made in the lawsuit, filed by Jayson Nicewarner, a Morgantown Firefighter and president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 313. Another 56 firefighters are also plaintiffs.
Six of those other 56 plaintiffs, Rick Sovastion, Andy Laskody, Frank Mellie, Joseph Guido, William Murphy and Mark Blaker, are not firefighters or employees of Morgantown, the response states. At least one is retired.
The other plaintiffs are firefighters and Mark Caravasos is the department’s chief, the response says.
The response indicates a mediation attempt between the two sides failed, but denies all the allegations made in the suit.
According to the suit, state code dictates compensation for holiday weeks. If a firefighter works on a legal holiday, or if the holiday falls on the firefighter’s day off, the firefighter is entitled to equivalent time off on another day or pay at time-and-a-half.
The suit says the firefighters were never properly compensated.
Nicewarner also told The Dominion Post firefighters have been compensated with 12 hours of time off per holiday shift, but this is inadequate because they work 24-hour shifts.
Morgantown’s response, filed by its attorney Ryan Simonton, of Kay Casto & Chaney, ends with a request for the court to dismiss the suit.

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