OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) – A former Michigan State Police trooper is awarded more than $6,000,000 by a jury, after he claimed he was forced to retire because he lost his sense of smell.
The attorneys for 57-year old-Kevin Amenson say he had an unblemished record as a trooper and could do his job, even though he lost his sense of smell.
The state police didn’t think he could be a trooper anymore, but apparently that jury thinks he could.
The jury trial was in Oakland County. It started on Friday and ended with Amenson being awarded more than $6,000,000.
His Saginaw attorneys say the verdict should send a message to any employer about their assumptions of workers with a disability.
“I was thrilled for my client,” says attorney Julie Gafkay about the multi-million dollar verdict.
Gafkay and Debra Fried’s client is Kevin Amenson, who was a Michigan State Police trooper for 15 years when he had an off-duty accident in 2010.
“He had been kicked by a horse and he fell back and hit his head and had a serious head injury. He fully recovered, except for his sense of smell, he never regained his sense of smell,” says Gafkay.
The state police at the Groveland post put him on restricted duty.
“They thought it was just going to be on the desk, he actually goes out and by way of example, apprehends a fugitive, on his own,” says Freid.
But they say the state police wouldn’t return him to his role as trooper, claiming he couldn’t perform his job in ways, such as smelling alcohol on suspected drunk driver.
Amenson felt he was forced into retirement in 2011. A disability discrimination lawsuit was filed in 2016 and after several court rulings, a jury finally heard the case and awarded Amenson a little more than $6,400,000 in economic and non-economic damages.
“We count on our jury system truly to uphold the law, to enforce the laws, to make the laws meaningful and that’s exactly what we saw this group do, it was outstanding,” says Freid.
Amenson is done with police work for now. He lives in Oakland County and works as heavy duty two truck driver.
Gafkay and Fried say a disability, such as loss of smell, doesn’t have to end someone’s career.
“Doesn’t mean you can’t do the job, doesn’t mean that you can’t bring a benefit to the public and employer,” says Gafkay.
“That’s the problem with disability discrimination, this assumption that you must do the job the way everyone else does it, that’s the problem,” says Freid.
The Michigan State Police released this statement on the verdict, writing, “the MSP maintains that we did not discriminate against Kevin Amenson. It remains our position that due to an injury he sustained while off-duty, he was unable to perform the essential job functions required of every trooper, even after allowing him an extended period of recuperation.
In hopes of retaining him as an employee, we did offer him a civilian position, but he declined the offer. We are consulting with the Attorney General’s Office to determine the options available to us.”