Casselberry Police Chief John Pavlis has fired Sergeant Andrea Eichhorn for her lawsuit against a victim in a frivolous slip-and-fall lawsuit. Now, the termination raises additional interesting questions in this sordid affair.
Previously, I discussed the lawsuit by Eichhorn and suggested that sanctions by the court may be warranted. For the earlier entry, click here
Eichhorn sued the family of Joey Cosmillo, who nearly drowned in a pool and suffered terrible injuries as a result of the accident. In her October lawsuit, Eichhorn claimed that the family negligently left water on the floor and that she tripped on the water when she came into the house. She pursued the lawsuit despite the fact that leaving water on the floor while you try to save a child’s life is facially reasonable as well as the fact that the child suffered brain damage and can no longer walk, talk or swallow.
I am still astonished that Eichhorn found an attorney who would file such an action. Now, however, there is an very difficult question about whether an officer can be fired for filing a personal lawsuit, which officers routinely do. The Chief of Police fired her from embarrassing the department. I would certainly admit that I am personally worried about anyone who is given a gun and police powers with this type of judgment. The filing required a complete lack of humanity and common sense.
Yet, the Chief would have been better to seek to intervene in the case as an interested party (perhaps as an amicus) and even seek or support its dismissal. He could have waited for a likely motion for dismissal and sanctions. If the court deemed the filing to be abusive, he may have had a better foundation for disciplinary action. On this record, he is saying that he can fire someone who files a legitimate (for now) lawsuit that he does not like. Given past race discrimination and other unpopular lawsuits against police department, it could create some dangerous precedent. After all, there does not appear to be any prohibition for the filing of such an action so Eichhorn was given no warning that an unpopular lawsuit would jeopardize her career. It is a very tough call since presumably a cop who engages in distasteful and notorious public conduct can be fired. Yet, this is a court filing seeking legal relief.
I am very sympathetic to the Chief and very angry about this filing. It is a grotesque and shameful use of the law. However, the proper punishment should begin in the case itself in a motion seeking possible sanctions against both Eichhorn and her counsel.