An insurance provider for the city of Billings, Mont., will appeal a verdict that awarded $1.3 million to a police officer who said he suffered retaliation for reporting the mishandling of illegal drugs within the department.
The Montana Municipal Insurance Authority, which provides the city with insurance against legal claims, filed a notice of appeal with the Montana Supreme Court.
Officer Steve Feuerstein filed a lawsuit against the city last year alleging violation of his state and federal free-speech rights, and violation of state employment laws. He said the city retaliated against him and denied him promotions after he reported that two officers in the “K-9” program for dog use in police work gave illegal drugs to a civilian dog handler.
The case went to trial in July, and a jury awarded Feuerstein $1.3 million in damages.
Jared Dahle, the attorney hired to represent the city against Feuerstein’s claims, filed motions in August asking for a new trial or reduction in the award, but a district court judge ruled against the request.
The notice of appeal was filed by Robert F. James, who was hired by Montana Municipal to review the case for a possible appeal.
He declined to discuss what arguments the insurance provider might make on appeal.
Elizabeth Best, Feuerstein’s attorney, said “the law permits a good faith appeal if error can be shown.”
City Administrator Tina Volek said the city wasn’t directly involved in the decision to appeal but it is good practice to ask the state’s highest court to review such cases.
“There are always issues at trial and it is generally advisable to follow up on those,” Volek said.
Supreme Court rules require the two sides to attempt to reach a settlement through mediation, a stage that could take up to 75 days.
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