Commonwealth Journal

Local News

September 30, 2013

Lawsuit against city, Girdler is settled

Somerset — A settlement has been reached in the case of a city employee who sued the entity after she claims she was retaliated against for accusing a fellow employee of assault.

Plaintiff Brenda Cruey on Aug. 30 filed a notice of settlement in U.S. Eastern District Court in London, bringing to an end more than two years of legal wrangling between the City of Somerset and Cruey.

Cruey originally filed a criminal complaint in May 2011 against fellow SomerSplash Waterpark employee Rhon Blevins after he allegedly screamed obscenities at Cruey and bumped his chest into hers while on the job at the water park. Cruey was laid off from her job temporarily following the incident, but was then told to return to work with fewer hours and altered responsibilities.

Cruey sued the city, Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler, and Blevins, claiming that her layoff was in retaliation for the criminal complaint she filed. Cruey’s initial lawsuit claims Girdler stated that the reason she was laid off was “because she filed the criminal complaint against Blevins.”

In August 2012 U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove granted the city’s request that several counts of Cruey’s lawsuit — that the city retaliated a participant in a legal process, that the termination of her employment violated Kentucky’s “Whistleblower Statute,” and that the defendants’ conduct was an intentional infliction of emotional distress —  be dismissed.

Van Tatenhove’s decision to dismiss three counts of Cruey’s complaint came nearly a year after he ordered that Cruey’s claims against Blevins be severed from the claims filed against the city and  Girdler.

Van Tatenhove, in his order, stated that the claims against Blevins — that he assaulted plaintiff Cruey during an “uncontrolled rage” on May 23, 2011 at the park — do not share common ground with Cruey’s claims against Girdler and the city of retaliation.

Cruey claims she was assaulted by Blevins during the May 23 incident. The lawsuit claims Blevins “chest and head-butted” Cruey. An earlier statement from Cruey made available to Somerset’s city council members states that Blevins “jumped in my face ... touching his nose to my nose and bumped his chest into mine.”

A menacing charge originally filed against Blevins was dismissed on the condition that Blevins stay at least 300 feet away from Cruey.

The third count of Cruey’s lawsuit, that her civil rights were violated by Girdler and the city “by causing her employment to be diminished by taking away hours and authority over others,” remained  active until the two parties reached a settlement in late August.

That settlement comes after mediation attempts between the two parties failed, and after depositions were taken in July from those involved in the case.

The details of the settlement have yet to be made available to the public.

“ ... Brenda Cruey ... hereby gives notice that the parties have settled this matter,” states the notice of settlement, filed by Cruey’s attorney David R. Marshall, of Lexington. “Formal dismissal documents will be forthcoming.”

Van Tatenhove accepted the notice of settlement and ordered that Cruey and the City of Somerset file its paperwork within the next 60 days.

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