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Gould v. Campbell's Ambulance Serv.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 5, 1984.

JAMES D. GOULD ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

CAMPBELL'S AMBULANCE SERVICE, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. George Moran, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiffs, James D. Gould, Vincent Dellamano and Peter Gillespie, brought an action against defendant, Campbell's Ambulance Service, Inc., seeking damages for retaliatory discharge. A jury awarded each plaintiff compensatory damages and defendant appeals. There are two issues presented for our review: (1) whether plaintiffs' discharge contravened a public policy; and (2) whether the evidence presented established that plaintiffs were unjustly discharged by defendant in retaliation for plaintiffs' complaints concerning the qualifications of a co-worker, Donald Dugan.

We first note that defendant has included in its brief a number of evidentiary issues which were not raised in its post-trial motion. In an order entered March 30, 1984, we allowed plaintiffs' motion to strike those portions of defendant's brief which related to the evidentiary issues raised by defendant on appeal but not in its post-trial motion. We abide by our previous order. Supreme Court Rule 366(b)(2)(iii) (87 Ill.2d R. 366(b)(2)(iii)) provides that a party who appeals from the denial of his post-trial motion in a jury case may not urge as error any point, ground, or relief not specified in the motion.

The record establishes that plaintiffs were all employed by defendant as emergency medical technicians in Alton. Plaintiffs were at-will employees and had no employment contract with defendant. Plaintiffs were terminated from their employment on March 19, 1980.

Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that they were terminated from their employment because they had expressed concern that Donald Dugan did not have the type of emergency medical technician certification required by a city of Alton ordinance and that defendant was operating in violation of the ordinance. The city of Alton ordinance upon which plaintiffs relied stated, in pertinent part, as follows:

"Every ambulance attendant driver must be qualified as provided hereafter, except that an ambulance service may provide such ambulance with one unqualified driver or attendant during a period not to exceed ninety (90) days, during which period such unqualified person is actively engaged in acquiring the necessary qualifications provided in subsection 4 below. A qualified ambulance attendant and driver shall

4. Be certified as an emergency medical technician by the state of Illinois or licensed physician, nurse, physician's assistant, or other licensed medical professional person." Alton, Il., Ordinances ch. 23, sec. 4-23-8(c)(4)(1979).

Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging, inter alia, that plaintiffs failed to allege "any clear and compelling mandated public policy against the discharge of Plaintiffs by Defendant." The trial court denied defendant's motion for summary judgment and the cause proceeded to trial.

James Gould testified that, prior to his discharge, he discussed with defendant's co-managers, Maurice Hand, Jr., and James Eugene Fowler, the fact that Mr. Dugan was not certified as an emergency medical technician by the State of Illinois. Mr. Gould stated that he also complained about Mr. Dugan's work habits but was told by defendant's co-managers that he would either have to work with Mr. Dugan or leave defendant's employment. Mr. Gould testified that he believed he was fired because he "was threatening to go to the City Council with Mr. Dugan's working on the ambulance and not being certified by the State of Illinois." Mr. Gould, however, could not specifically recall whether he informed defendant's management that he planned to complain to the city council of Alton. Mr. Gould stated that he did in fact complain to the mayor of the city of Alton and an alderman but that no action by the city was taken. Mr. Gould testified that he was later informed by Mr. Hand that he was terminated because he was a troublemaker and did not get along with Mr. Dugan.

Peter Gillespie testified that he asked Mr. Hand and Mr. Fowler not to schedule him to work with Mr. Dugan because he felt that Mr. Dugan's competency was questionable. Mr. Gillespie said he was told by Mr. Fowler to either work with Mr. Dugan or leave defendant's employment. Mr. Gillespie said that on the night he and the other plaintiffs were terminated, he told Mr. Fowler that defendant was "going to have to get" Mr. Dugan certified by the State because it might make defendant look bad. Mr. Gillespie testified that he assumed he was terminated from his employment for "stirring trouble with Mr. Dugan's certification."

Vincent Dellamano testified that he did not complain to management about Mr. Dugan. Mr. Dellamano stated that he was told that he was fired for causing a disturbance but that he believed that he was terminated due to his friendship with those who voiced complaints about Mr. Dugan.

Roger Campbell, president of defendant, testified that it was his policy to require that ambulance attendants be certified either by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians or by the State of Illinois. Mr. Campbell stated that he believed that either national or State certification satisfied the Alton ordinance governing the qualifications of emergency medical technicians. Mr. Campbell testified that plaintiffs never complained to him about Mr. Dugan's certification.

Donald Dugan testified that he was employed as a captain on the city of Alton fire department and worked part-time as an ambulance attendant. Mr. Dugan stated that at the time he was hired as an ambulance attendant and during the period relevant to this litigation he was certified by the National Registry of the Emergency Medical Technicians but was not certified by the State of Illinois.

Mr. Hand testified that Mr. Gould and Mr. Gillespie frequently complained about working with Mr. Dugan. Mr. Hand stated that none of the plaintiffs ever complained at monthly staff meetings about Mr. Dugan's emergency medical technician certification. Mr. Hand testified that two or three months prior to Mr. Gould's termination, Mr. Gould asked whether Mr. Dugan had a valid emergency medical technician card. Mr. Hand related that he checked Mr. Dugan's personnel file and subsequently informed Mr. Gould that it contained a copy of a valid emergency medical technician card for Mr. Dugan. According to Mr. Hand, on the night plaintiffs were terminated, he asked each of them what the problem was and they all replied that they would ...


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