Published: December 1, 2008
By: MO Lawyers Media Staff
A Clay County jury awarded $76,045 to a trucker who was fired from his job after his probation officer reported alleged drug use to his employer.
“We knew it would be a difficult case given the public safety issues involved with admitted drug use from a commercial truck driver,” said Mark J. Murphy, plaintiff.s attorney with The Murphy Law Firm in Liberty. “However, as the trial went on we were able to demonstrate that the defendant really went over the line. She set out to have this man terminated regardless of the fact that he could have gone into treatment and kept his job.”
Bryan Richardson, 39, worked as a commercial truck driver for Central Freight Lines in Kansas City. He was on supervised probation with the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole for two convictions on felony drug possession charges.
Traycie Sherwood was Richardson.s probation officer. On Feb. 14, 2007, she called Central Freight and informed the company that Richardson had admitted to using drugs while operating its equipment. Central Freight terminated Richardson nine days later.
Richardson denied making the alleged statement to Sherwood. He contended that even if he had admitted to drug use, he never used drugs while operating the equipment. Furthermore, he argued that any information about his drug use is personal, confidential information that Sherwood is not allowed to disclose, pursuant to her code of conduct and her policy and procedure manual.
Sherwood claimed she told Central Freight that Richardson admitted to the drug use on a Saturday or Sunday morning and may have still been under the influence when he reported to work the following Monday at 9 p.m. The Missouri Board of Probation and Parole subsequently disciplined Sherwood for the unauthorized disclosure of this information, according to Murphy.
Richardson contended that Sherwood disclosed the information with the intention of getting him fired, and she had threatened to require him to quit his job as early as five months earlier. Richardson further argued that his termination was unnecessary. If Sherwood had not made the phone call and false allegation, Central Freight would have given him a 30-day leave of absence and let him keep his job if he had gone into drug treatment, Richardson said. A representative from Central Freight testified that this was in fact their policy.
Richardson contended he never got along with Sherwood. He claimed she repeatedly threatened to make him quit his job and recommend that his probation be revoked before the day she called Central Freight.
After a three-day trial, the jury deliberated about three hours before awarding Richardson $76,045 for past lost wages and benefits. The jury declined to award future lost wages.
Emily Kalmer, defense attorney with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office in Jefferson City, confirmed verdict details but declined further comment.
Facts of the Case
Type of Action: Tortious interference with a business relationship
Court: Clay County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 07CY-CV02486/Oct. 29, 2008
Judge: A. Rex Gabbert
Verdict or Settlement: $76,045 jury verdict
Special Damages: $76,045 past lost wages and benefits; $77,000 future lost wages
Caption: Bryan Richardson v. Traycie Sherwood
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Mark J. Murphy and J. Michael Murphy, The Murphy Law Firm, Liberty
Defendant’s Attorneys: Emily Kalmer and Ryan Murphy, Missouri Attorney General’s Office, Jefferson City