Long-time sheriff's detective doesn't want reassignment to patrol. Defense verdict. El Dorado County.


Deputy sheriff works in the investigation unit for many years, is then told he's going back on patrol duty. He claims discrimination.

The Case

  • Case Name: Fitzgerald v. County of El Dorado et al.
  • Court and Case Number: USDC Eastern District of California / 12-cv-02932
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, June 17, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, December 04, 2012
  • Type of Case: Civil Rights
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Morrison England, Jr.
  • Plaintiffs:
    Richard Fitzgerald
  • Defendants:
    County of El Dorado; John D'Agostini; Rich Williams.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 7 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 hours
  • Jury Polls: 8-0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Offices of Jill P. Telfer by Jill P. Telfer, Sacramento.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Foster Employment Law by C. Christine Maloney, Oakland (for County).

    Porter Scott Attorneys by Carl Fessenden, Sacramento (for D'Agostini and Williams).

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Jo Danti, Ph.D., psychology, Sacramento.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):


  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Beth De Lima, HR practices, Sacramento.

    Charles Mahla, Ph.D., economics, Sacramento.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):


Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff Richard Fitzgerald, a deputy sheriff, worked as detective in the investigations unit for 17 years when he was reassigned to patrol. Plaintiff was one of four detectives reassigned to patrol to create openings and opportunities for other deputies to work in the investigations unit. Plaintiff resigned and retired in lieu of working in patrol.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff Fitzgerald claimed that at age 56 he was, in his view, "too old" to work in a patrol assignment and was forced to quit. Plaintiff claimed that he was subject to age discrimination, retaliation for employee speech and opposition to age discrimination, and due process violations.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    After Sheriff D'Agostini entered office in 2011, he received feedback from multiple sources (including an internal employee survey and a civil Grand Jury report) that there was little turnover in specialty assignments in the Sheriff's Office and little opportunity for deputies to enhance their skills by working in a specialty assignment, such as the investigations unit.

    After study and observation, the Sheriff exercised his management rights to reassign personnel. Plaintiff was one of four detectives reassigned to patrol in March 2012 to create openings in investigations. Plaintiff was selected for reassignment because he had served in the unit the longest and it was, quite simply, someone else's turn. Plaintiff never spoke to anyone in Sheriff's management about his concerns with working a patrol assignment.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • PTSD and major depressive disorder.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $205,391
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $660,825