FROM TAYLOR CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE ALLAN RAY BERTRAM, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 13-CI-00144
FOR APPELLANT: Larry D. Ashlock Bowling Green, Kentucky
FOR APPELLEES: Winter R. Huff Somerset, Kentucky
BEFORE: J. LAMBERT, NICKELL, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.
Fields appeals from a November 24, 2015, order of the Taylor
Circuit Court granting summary judgment for Rick
Benningfield, individually, and in his official capacity as
Taylor County Jailer; Eddie "Hack" Marcum,
individually and in his official capacity as Taylor County
Jailer; Taylor County Fiscal Court; Eddie Rogers, Taylor
County Judge Executive; James Jones, Magistrate; John Gaines,
Magistrate; Tommy Corbin, Magistrate; Matt Pendleton,
Magistrate; Ed Gorin, Magistrate; and Richard Phillips,
Magistrate (collectively referred to as appellants) on
Fields' wrongful termination of employment claim as an
employee of the Taylor County Jail. For the reasons stated,
we reverse and remand.
began his employment with the Taylor County Jail (Jail)
effective November 1, 2008. Fields' initial title was
deputy jailer; in March 2009, Fields was promoted to sergeant
(although he did not receive an increase in pay because of
budget constraints). At that time, the Taylor County Jailer
was appellee Rick Benningfield and the chief deputy jailer
was Kevin Wilson. In early June of 2009, Fields discussed the
possibility of decreasing his hours to part-time in order to
spend more time on his dairy farm; but, he ultimately decided
to remain as a full-time employee so that he could maintain
his health benefits.
June 11, 2009, Fields was injured on the job when he assisted
in restraining an unruly inmate at the Jail. He filed for and
received worker's compensation benefits during his
extended medical leave. Fields had surgery to repair the
injury (a tear in his rotator cuff) in August 2009. Fields
testified that, in follow up visits post-surgery, his doctor
informed him that there was a second, deeper tear in that
shoulder. Fields never had the recommended additional
surgery. He was only released to perform light duty work,
with no lifting over 20 pounds, no repetitive or overhead
work, and he was to avoid restraint situations (associated
with work as a corrections officer).
(Jailer) informed Fields that the Jail had no light duty work
and that every deputy was required to be able to subdue a
prisoner. Meanwhile, the Jailer had to use two or more
part-time employees in lieu of Fields to cover Fields'
duties on the duty roster. Fields was required to report his
medical status periodically to the Jailer and maintain his
medical leave excuses.
March 10, 2010, medical leave for Fields expired. According
to the depositions of the Jail's witnesses, attempts to
reach Fields were unsuccessful. On March 15, 2010, a notice
of termination letter signed by chief deputy Wilson was sent
to Fields via U.S. mail (first class). The letter, from which
we quote, stated five reasons for the termination:
1. Doctors excuse expired as of 03-10-2010.
2. FMLA leave - you are not eligible for this because you had
not worked 1 year prior to leave starting.
3. Cervical neck injury you are claiming as your injury at
this time is not related to the shoulder injury that workman
comp. claim started with.
4. No attempt has been made to contact the Taylor County