Dismissal of Milton Fire Department suit upheld

Lynn Rogers: I never got my day in court
October 9, 2018

Delaware Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a defamation case brought by the former chief of the Milton Fire Department.

Lynn Rogers had filed a lawsuit in February, 2017 against John Bushey and the Milton Fire Department, after his membership status was revised by the department’s board of directors. Rogers, a member from 1969 to June, 2014 with the status of chief emeritus, claimed the decision effectively stripped him of his member rights and privileges. On three occasions, Rogers asked the board to reinstate him but the board refused.  

Rogers also alleged that Bushey and other department members made negative remarks about him and prevented him from being a pallbearer at a fellow officer’s funeral.

For their part, Bushey and the fire department argued that Rogers’ claims should be dismissed because they fell outside the two-year statute of limitations on defamation claims. Rogers lost his member privileges in June 2014 but did not file suit until February 2017. Judge Richard Cooch agreed with the defendants and granted their motion to dismiss Feb. 7.

Rogers said his attorney filed the suit a day or two late, leading to the case being dismissed on a technicality. He said his case was never heard on its merits.

“I never got my day in court,” Rogers said.

He said he filed the suit because he was being accused of things he did not do. Rogers’ original legal filings said Bushey and other members accused Rogers of, among other things, being drunk in public even though Rogers does not drink.

After the ruling, Rogers acknowledged there is nowhere left to go, legally. He still has a similar suit against Bushey and the fire department in Delaware Court of Chancery; he said he may continue down that route to get his day in court.

As he comes up on nearly 50 years of involvement with the fire department, Rogers said he would like to get his life membership privileges, which he says he’s earned. He said he’s been excommunicated from the department.

“It was my whole life,” he said, reflecting on the department and the result of his case. “It eats at you every day, but things happen, I guess.”

Bushey referred questions to his and the department’s attorney, Craig Karsnitz. Karsnitz said the case was unfortunate but that the result will allow the department to move on. “I hope the Supreme Court decision brings it to an end, and the Milton Fire Department can do more productive things,” he said.