Officer Fired For Car Wreck, Not Because Of Age

Bob Pacovsky was fired from his position as a police officer for the City of Greenville, Mississippi when he became involved in a car wreck. Pacovsky sued the City, alleging that his discharge was really because of his age (he was 52 years old).

The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Pacovsky’s lawsuit. Pacovsky’s claim revolved around his contention that similarly-situated younger officers who had been involved in car wrecks had not been terminated, and that the City’s reliance on his car wreck was a pretext.

The Court found that to prevail, Pacovsky had to show that none of the other car wrecks were distinguishable from his own. This was a burden, the Court concluded, that Pacovsky could not meet.

“The record demonstrates material differences between this wreck and the wrecks of the younger officers who were not terminated. First, Pacovsky violated a direct order of his superior and multiple departmental policies, whereas one of the younger officers had permission from the Police Chief to engage in the chase that led to his accident. Second, Pacovsky created a danger that was severe and more than merely negligent; he intentionally tried to stop a fleeing suspect going over 100 miles per hour by blocking the suspect’s path with his and another officer’s cars. Third, his dangerous actions were not justified by the circumstances. He became involved in a pursuit in which he knew other officers were already engaged; further, he did not know what the suspect was accused of when he attempted to stop him.”

Pacovsky v. City of Booneville, Mississippi, 2009 WL 2972092 (5th Cir. 2009).

This article appears in the December 2009 issue