NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A New Haven fire lieutenant filed a civil lawsuit on Monday against the city of New Haven and the city’s board of fire commissioners.
Lt. Samod Rankins was critically injured on May 12, 2021, while battling a fire on Valley Street in New Haven. Rankins and fellow firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr. were found unconscious on the second floor of the home.
Torres Jr. was killed in the fire, and Rankins sustained life-threatening injuries. After the fire, Rankins was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent treatment at Bridgeport Hospital’s burn unit.
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Rankins also suffered from battered lungs and burn inhalation injuries that affected his throat and trachea.
Rankins was eventually fully cleared to resume his full firefighter duties with no restrictions. In the civil lawsuit. Rankins claims the city of New Haven will not allow him to return to work, even though he has received full medical clearance to do so.
Rankins went on to successfully pass a promotional exam to potentially become a fire captain.
In the lawsuit, Rankins alleges that the New Haven Board of Fire Commissioners passed him over twice for promotion to captain, claiming that he has not been medically cleared to work.
Rankins’s lawsuit claims this is against the New Haven Fire Department’s long-standing practice of promoting firefighters who are on a promotional list.
The lawsuit is alleging that Rankins was retaliated against because he filed for workers’ compensation benefits. The lawsuit also claims the alleged retaliation is also linked to Rankin’s prior lawsuits against the city’s promotional and hiring practices, as well as negligence against the chief and board for passing him over for promotion.
He claims that other firefighters who were injured while Chief John Alston has led the department were promoted. Those promotions allegedly happened while they were out on medical leave.
Rankins filed a complaint alleging he was discriminated against based on race and disability, as he was the only African American candidate out of the 10 eligible lieutenants eligible for promotion to captain.
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In the lawsuit, Rankins is seeking promotion to captain, along with backpay from when he said he should have been promoted. He also wants the difference in pension that would have come along with the promotion. He’s asking the court for attorney’s fees, costs and punitive damages.
The firefighter’s union, Local 825, filed a complaint with Connecticut’s labor board claiming, Rankins was deemed eligible for both testing and promotion — but was passed over for promotion because of new increased eligibility criteria.
Rankins is represented by Attorney Patricia Cofrancesco of East Haven.
The city of New Haven released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
“Given the pending litigation, the City of New Haven cannot comment on the substance of the lawsuit at this time, but Lieutenant Rankins service as a New Haven firefighter is to be commended and the fire department looks forward to him returning to work at the appropriate time.”