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Family of medic who died after alleged bullying by KCFD supervisor wins lawsuit

Giovanna Vittori filed her discrimination lawsuit in 2018; later that year, she died from a medication overdose at 38


Photo/Kansas City (Mo.) Fire Department

By Bill Lukitsch, Katie Moore
The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The family of a paramedic who said she was terrorized by a supervisor in the Kansas City Fire Department before she died won a $100,000 verdict in a lawsuit against the city on Friday.

Giovanna Vittori filed the discrimination lawsuit in 2018 in Jackson County Circuit Court. Later that year, at 38 years old, she died from an overdose of prescription medication.

Vittori’s attorneys and family believe her death was a suicide. Her fitness for duty report and a home foreclosure notice were found on her bed.

KCFD Assistant Fire Chief Jimmy Walker said Monday that the city does not comment on litigation. Sherae Honeycutt, a spokeswoman for the city, did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Vittori had been a medic since 2006. She began working with the Kansas City Fire Department in 2010.

In 2014, she went on a call where crews found a man who had shot himself in the head. The “horrifying” incident contributed to the development of Vittori’s post-traumatic stress disorder, her lawyers argued in court.

“She couldn’t get that out of her head,” said her attorney Kevin Baldwin.

To help cope with PTSD, Vittori was taken off the ambulance crew and transferred into the billing department. But in the office setting, Vittori was allegedly subjected to a cruel and hostile work environment where her direct supervisor and other employees would bully her.

In one case, Vittori’s lawyers said, two fellow employees thought it would be funny to “turn on the radios” for the purpose of triggering her PTSD. Over the course of her time in the office, Vittori’s anxiety grew and her prescription medication was increased because of work-related stress, according to her attorneys.

“She was taunted and terrorized by her supervisor who didn’t believe she had PTSD,” Baldwin said. “The supervisor would intentionally startle and trigger her to try and catch her lying about her condition.”

Vittori filed an internal complaint that was substantiated, according to Baldwin.

But he said the fire department did not discipline or retrain the supervisor.

Baldwin was hired to represent Vittori in spring 2017 and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Vittori was sent for a fitness for duty exam. She died April 10, 2018.

After Vittori died, her father decided to continue with the lawsuit as long as Baldwin promised he would seek a verdict and not a settlement.

At the time of her death, Vittori had not been deposed and had not given sworn testimony for the lawsuit.

Baldwin said the legal team had to work with emails and medical records to prove their case. They also called coworkers to testify who had witnessed “and reported the taunting, triggering and discriminatory acts of the supervisor,” he said.

The trial began March 7 and ended Friday. The jury concluded the city was liable for discrimination based on Vittori’s disability. The awarded money will go to her son and daughter.

“It was a long fight, but one that needed to be undertaken to vindicate the rights of Giovanna Vittori and all first responders who suffer with PTSD,” Baldwin said.

©2023 The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Suicide is always preventable. If you are having thoughts of suicide or feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 988. Counselors are also available to chat at Remember: You deserve to be supported, and it is never too late to seek help. Speak with someone today.