DUI Defense attorney Bob Dunne is suing the City of Spokane, WA $4 million dollars for the wrongful termination of his client, discharged police officer Brad Thoma. The basis for the suit: that Thoma was wrongfully terminated as an officer of the Spokane Police Department after receiving a DUI hit-and-run conviction in 2010. Attorney Dunne argues that his client Thoma should not have been fired after his conviction, because, wait for it…., Thoma suffers from alcoholism. And since alcoholism is a disease, Thoma claims that the city, as his employer, was responsible in helping him find treatment, rather than firing him.
This incident took place at the end of 2009, when Thoma, who was off duty at the time, read ended the vehicle stopped in front of him at a red light, and then drove off. Thoma was later fired by then Spokane police chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
Thoma, through his criminal lawyer, had a proposed settlement in the ballpark of $250,000 on the table, but it was rejected by the Spokane City Council, hence the now $4 million suit for back wages and wrongful termination.
While you may be reading this article and thinking that his DUI lawyer‘s claim is ludicrous, it may actually hold ground in court. The premise for the suit is that Washington law defined alcoholism as a disability, and that the City of Spokane, as Thoma’s employer at the time, had a duty to help him get treatment for his disability- alcoholism- rather than terminate him for the DUI hit and run.
The city of Spokane has one month to respond to the suit. In the meantime, officials are deciding what will be more burdensome- the cost of paying the settlement, defending the suit in court, or the loss of public trust for indulging an attorney and a claim that some may view with—- skepticism, to say the least.
This is a tough one. One the one hand, the taxpayer sees a 4 million dollar lawsuit and says, no way. Especially when the suit is over wrongful termination of a police officer. Most would argue that termination is the correct course of action for a police officer involved in a hit and run DUI, the kind of incident police are supposed to prevent, address, and respond to, not cause!
That being said, when the state of Washington has defined alcoholism as a disability, termination as a course of action may have been inappropriate. This reminds me of the Ryan Braun steroid scandal to a degree. The baseball player may have gotten off, just like this discharged police officer may be collecting a hefty payday, via a technicality. We are interested to see how this develops.
Posted by: the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Alcock & Associates in Phoenix Arizona
by Nick Alcock
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