Court-appointed attorney sought

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The plaintiff in a civil case filed against Lunenburg County, County Administrator Tracy M. Gee, and county human resources professional Nicole Clark has filed new court documents in Lunenburg Circuit Court in response to the defendant’s demurrers and in response to the defendant’s plea to remove the case from the court.

The plaintiff, Robert L. Matthews — a former county employee — is suing the defendants for wrongful termination, defamation of character and actions that led to prolonged “pain and suffering” after a “near fatal attack” by a dog. Matthews alleges he was working on a case as an animal control officer at the time of the attack.

Matthews’ latest filings serve as a response to the demurrers filed by the

defendants in response to Matthews’ initial claims made in Lunenburg County Circuit Court. He has also filed a response to the defendant’s request for removal of the case from the court and a motion “for an order appointing counsel to represent him in this case,” according to court documents.

A demurrer is an objection that an opponent’s point is irrelevant or invalid.

In the detailed six-page response to the defendant’s demurrers to his claims, Matthews requests that the date of the discovery of his injury be used to determine the statute of limitations for Occupational, Safety and Health Administration standards “for failure to provide personal protective gear and adequate safety training” and that of “wrongful termination of employment. ….” instead of the actual date the injury occurred.

Matthew claims he requested “reasonable accommodation by providing the treating physician’s work restrictions” to the county.

Matthews goes on in the latest filings to defend his claim that his termination was in “retaliation (of the) violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) … and motivated by the desire to avoid future costs related to the worker’s compensation claim. …”

Matthews says in the filings he provided truthful information to the best of his knowledge despite not being able to get representation, requesting the case remain in the circuit court.

Matthews also submitted to the Lunenburg County Circuit Court an opposition to the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case, requesting his “responses to the Demurrers be incorporated herein in support of this Opposition to Motion to Dismiss.”

In the filing, Matthews requested “that the court allow delayed accrual (for the statute of limitations) as the Plaintiff discovered the basis of his claims only after initiating the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) claim and submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for delayed accrual in this filing.”

Matthews claims in the court documents that he kept the defendants up-to-date on necessary information during treatment.

He later submits in the document he is not “an educated man” and is not prepared to make “eloquent” arguments on his own defense, saying he submitted his claim to the best of his ability and knowledge.

Matthews also stated “that there is clear and convincing evidence that the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health regulations were “violated and that this action by … Gee evidences a pattern of illegal activity and a disregard for legal compliance.”

The document is in response to the defendants’ request to dismiss the case from the court.

Matthews additionally filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel, citing his inability to afford his own, the complexity of the case and his lack of knowledge of law proceedings.

In the filing, Matthews says the trial will likely involve conflicting testimony and that a lawyer would be able to help him better present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Matthews also claims he has tried repeatedly to obtain a lawyer but was unable to.

On Jan. 20, the defendants filed a notice of removal from Lunenburg Circuit Court to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia’s Richmond Division.

Matthews alleges in the initial suit he was hired to work as a building and grounds technician for Lunenburg County. According to the suit, Matthews was promoted in 2010, adding assistant Animal Control Officer (ACO) to his then-current title.

Matthews claims that on May 20, 2012 he responded as ACO to a call involving a vicious dog attack resulting in “severe facial injuries” to the victim. When he stepped out of the vehicle, Matthews alleges, he was attacked by the same dog and as a result was placed on Worker’s Compensation. According to Matthews, the lack of personal protective equipment and inadequate training preceded the attack.

Matthews later alleges in the suit he was sent a letter on Dec. 4, 2015 that he must return from work by Dec. 7 or he would have been considered resigned. Upon returning to work that same day, Matthews claims he was told “his Family and Medical Leave Act coverage had ended, there was no light-duty work available and his position was terminated,” according to his court filings.