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Former Firefighter Wins $680,000 Judgment Against City of Alameda

In a case that dates back to 2006, a former City of Alameda firefighter has won a judgment of just over $680,000 in a wrongful dismissal suit against the City of Alameda. The jury verdict comes after an appellate court reversed an earlier decision in the City’s favor and remanded the case back to Alameda County Superior Court.

According to court documents, Ronald Vanderheiden joined the Alameda Fire Department in 1989, and earned several commendations through to 2003. That year, however, Vanderheiden got into a dispute with a fellow firefighter that escalated into a police complaint which ultimately, according to a summary of the case on Fear Not Law, a legal resource website, lead to his termination from the Alameda Fire Department and Vanderheiden alleging that he was shunned and ostracized by his fellow firefighters in order to push him out of the force. Vanderheiden alleged that then-Fire Chief James Christiansen told him that he was being ostracized for going outside of the fire department – to the police – with his complaint against his fellow firefighter.

It has been a hotly contested case – the Fear Not Law summary of the case notes that, “The facts we recite are not undisputed. Practically everything in this case is disputed, including the relevance and admissibility of the evidence presented by both parties.”

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled against Vanderheiden in 2007; Vanderheiden appealed and the 2007 ruling was partially vacated in 2009. Just this month, a jury ruled in favor of Vanderheiden, rendering a judgment against the City of Alameda of $680,182.

Asked about the judgment and potential appeals, Jennifer Ott, Alameda Deputy City Manager, told Action Alameda News, “The City has reached its self-insured retention of $500,000 for all legal defense bills up to and through trial. As a result, the City’s risk pool, called the California Joint Powers Risk Management Authority, will pay all costs on a going-forward basis. The City is evaluating whether to file an appeal; no decision has been made.”

The case numbers are RG-06283619 in Alameda County Superior Court and A120169 in the California Appellate Court, First District Court of Appeals.

1 comment to Former Firefighter Wins $680,000 Judgment Against City of Alameda

  • alameda vigilante

    What is not disputed in the Fear Not Law article is the name of the “fellow firefighter”, Jeff DelBono. A fascinating report on the cliquey atmosphere @ the firehouse in this Peyton Place called Alameda.

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