In the Media:
Michigan Lawyers Weekly: "Director: I was scapegoat in investigation -- He claimed complaints on security went unheeded"
Description of Case:
WHISTLEBLOWER SUIT AGAINST NURSING HOME SETTLES FOR $100,000.00
Plaintiff, Darren Coggins, settled his lawsuit against his former employer, a nursing home “caring” for the elderly, for $100,000. Throughout his employment with Defendants, Coggins complained to upper management about the unsafe conditions that the elderly residents were put in – namely that the entrance security system was not working properly and residents were letting themselves in and out of the building, and that the facility was under-staffed. Defendants repeatedly ignored his recommendations to hire additional staff and fix the security system, letting money considerations overrule what they needed to do for the good of their residents. Defendants conduct constituted discrimination against their elderly and vulnerable patients, and shirked their responsibility to truly comply with the State safety mandates, because they could get away with it, and thereby maximize Defendants’ profits by running a “mill” – this was the argument made at both MSD and ADR.
Defendants made it known to Coggins that they were unhappy with his protestations and efforts to protect the elderly and handicapped by hiring more staff and installing proper security systems. At a certain point, it was brought to his attention that, regardless of his stellar work record, because of his complaints, his job was in jeopardy.
After a complaint was made (not by the Plaintiff) to the State of Michigan attributable to an alarm system safety hazard, and Coggins participated in the State’s investigation, Defendants used him as a “scapegoat”, and he was fired in 2012 from his Director of Nursing duties, ironically due to the very same violations he complained of and demanded that Defendants fix to prevent the elderly patients from “walking away” from the facility, which in fact occurred.
During depositions, Defendants acknowledged that their blaming of Coggins was a ‘trickledown effect’ – that someone else on duty was responsible for the violations, but since he was in charge of that individual, he was to blame. This is exactly the “blame the supervisor” for what the employees did proffered business reason that formed the basis of the U.S. Supreme Court case of St. Mary's Honor Center v Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 511 (1993)
Trial in this matter was set for mid-April, 2014, after the Judge denied Defendants’ Motion for Summary Disposition on all claims but Public Policy. The case settled through ADR on 3/5/14 for $100,000.
Type of Action: Whistleblower Protection Act, ELCRA Discrimination and Retaliation, PWDCRA
Injuries Alleged: Loss of job, lost wages, mental anguish, emotional distress and outrage
Name of Case: Darren Coggins v. Heartland Employment Services, Cyndi Taplin and Rami Ubaydi
Court: Genesee County Circuit Court
Case No: 12-99179-CZ
Tried Before: No
Name of Judge: Hon. Judith Fullerton
Date of Verdict: Settled through ADR on 3/5/14
Last Offer to Settle: N/A
Most Helpful Experts: N/A
Key To Winning: Using Defendants’ own records and admissions to prove Plaintiff’s WPA and ELCRA claims
Allocation of Fault: N/A
Insurance Carrier: N/A
Attorney for Plaintiff: Tom R. Pabst, Michael A. Kowalko and Jarrett M. Pabst
Attorney for Defendant: withheld