Former Lowell fire captain James McLaughlin, who won a $450,000 discrimination lawsuit against the city in 2010, has had that award overturned by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The dispute began in 1996 when McLaughlin suffered an asthma attack after responding to a mulch fire without wearing protective gear. Lowell fire officials did not allow McLaughlin to return to work, stating that any use of an inhaler at a fire scene would violate their policy against removing an oxygen mask. Between 2000 and 2004, McLaughlin sought reinstatement; in 2004 he filed a civil lawsuit alleging handicapped discrimination. In 2010, a Middlesex Superior Court jury found in favor of McLaughlin and the city appealed, ultimately leading to the Appeals Court decision.