Jury comes to split verdict in Jacksonville fire captain's lawsuit

Jury finds no discrimination, but finds JFRD retaliated against Eric Mitchell

Capt. Eric Mitchell was on the stand Tuesday morning for cross-examination.
Capt. Eric Mitchell was on the stand Tuesday morning for cross-examination. (Courtroom sketch by Steve Bridges)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A federal jury in the discrimination and retaliation civil suit trial against the city of Jacksonville reached a split verdict after deliberating for two days. 

Capt. Eric Mitchell, with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, filed the lawsuit against Division Chief Gail Loput, Fire Chief Kurt Wilson and the city of Jacksonville. According to the lawsuit, Mitchell claims he was discriminated against for being black and, when he spoke out about it, he was retaliated against.

The trial started last week and the jury began deliberating after closing arguments ended Tuesday.

COURT DOCUMENT: Amended complaint and demand for jury trial

On Wednesday, the 12-person jury found there was no discrimination by JFRD and Wilson. But the jury found the department did retaliate against Mitchell for airing his claims and that Mitchell should be paid damages. 

He was awarded $2,600 in lost wages, $13,000 for emotional stress and $26,000 in punitive damages. 

News4Jax contacted both sides for comment but had not heard back from the city as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Mitchell's attorneys sent the following statement: 

On behalf of Captain Mitchell, we appreciate the jury's verdict, which validated his claim that he was the victim of retaliation by Fire Director Wilson and Division Chief Loput. This has been a courageous effort by Captain Mitchell to obtain justice. We are hopeful this verdict will send a message to the fire department and others that there is no room for such behavior in the work place."

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