August 1, 2011

Monetary Damages Not Available to Plaintiffs Under Firefighter’s Bill of Rights

Curtis v. City of West Palm Beach, 4D10-876
June 22, 2011

The Fourth District Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether a firefighter could claim monetary damages under the Firefighter’s Bill of Rights (“FBR”). The firefighter sought monetary relief for alleged violations of the FBR by the City of West Palm Beach in imposing disciplinary action against him. The City obtained summary judgment because the trial court concluded monetary damages were unavailable under the FBR.
On appeal, the Fourth DCA affirmed, holding that the FBR permitted only injunctive relief. The Court noted that the remedies available for a statutory violation are to be determined by the clear and unambiguous language of that statute.  The Fourth DCA held that the FBR’s language clearly permits injunctive relief as the sole remedy for a violation of its terms.  The Court rejected the appellant’s argument that section 112.84, Florida Statutes (2007) permitted monetary relief for a violation of the FBR as a “right and privilege guaranteed to all citizens.”  While section 112.84 states that “[t]hese rights include the right to bring suit against any…organization… for damages, either monetary or otherwise, suffered during the performance of the firefighter’s official duties or for abridgment of the firefighter’s rights…,” the Court held that the language of section 112.84 refers only to other rights or remedies available under the statute in question.  The Court looked to the legislative intent behind the statute and found that the legislature intended injunctive relief to be the sole remedy for a violation of the FBR.