City, Beaumont firefighter go head to head in appeals court

David Yates Jul. 20, 2010, 6:16am

A 30-year veteran of the Beaumont Fire Department is asking the Ninth Court of Appeals to reject a city appeal and enforce a jury verdict which allows him to keep his benefits.

In February 2008, firefighter Tracy O'Quinn sued the city of Beaumont, claiming the city refused to continue to compensate him for a heart attack he suffered on the job on Nov. 6, 1995.

O'Quinn was forced to file the suit after a Worker's Compensation Appeals Panel ruled in November 2007 that his "compensable injury does not include coronary artery disease, high-density lipoprotein (high cholesterol) and gastritis," court records show.

After a year and a half of litigation, a Jefferson County jury reversed the appeals panel's ruling and found that O'Quinn's "compensable injury" does indeed include coronary artery disease and gastritis. However, the jury did side with the appeals panel in ruling that the injury does not include HDL.

Judge Gary Sanderson, who presided over the trial, officially entered the jury verdict on July 30, 2009, court papers say.

In response, the city filed motions to reject the jury verdict and grant a new trial – all of which was rejected by Judge Sanderson – forcing the city to file an appeal.

The case was submitted on briefs July 19.

On appeal, the city claims that "there is insufficient evidence" to support the jury's findings, arguing that justices should reverse and remand the trial court's decision not to grant its motion for a new trial, according to the city's appeals brief.

Conversely, O'Quinn contends that "sufficient" evidence was presented, which included testimony from his cardiologist.

"Testimonial and documentary evidence, though disputed, constituted legally sufficient evidence to support the jury's findings in O'Quinn's favor," states O'Quinn appeals brief. "Therefore, the judgment should be affirmed."

It could take months before justices craft an opinion.

O'Quinn is represented by attorney John Werner of the Beaumont law firm Reaud, Morgan and Quinn.

The city is represented by Beaumont attorneys Don Lighty and Michael Rose of the Stevens Baldo Freeman & Lighty law firm.

Trial case No. B181-294
Appeals case No. 09-09-00448-CV

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