Category Archives: Emotional Distress Damages

Cleveland jury awards $900,000 against hospital in age discrimination case

Ellen Simon, an attorney in Cleveland who authors the excellent blog, Ellen Simon’s Employee Rights Post, recently tried an age discrimination claim for plaintiff Gloria Parks (a phlebotomist) against Cleveland’s University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

Ms. Parks had worked for the hospital for 30 years when she was fired over a medical mistake involving herself and another much younger employee. The hospital fired Ms. Parks, but not the much younger employee.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff (Ms. Parks) for $450,000 for her economic loss and $450,000 for “other compensatory damages”, according to Ms. Simon’s blog article. Based on the limited information I have so far, it looks like the “other compensatory damages” was an award for emotional distress, The jury did not award punitive damages.

So the verdict totals $900,000, and Ms. Simon will file a request for attorneys’ fees‘ fees and expenses. While it is not clear from the article so far, I suspect the case was asserted for age discrimination under Ohio’s Fair Employment Practices Act (and not the federal ADEA).

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The disastrous consequences of the N-word in the workplace. Just ask Dr. Laura!

Okay, this article has nothing to do with Dr. Laura Schlessinger and her “rant” in which she used the N-word repeatedly on her radio program when responding to an African-American caller. But the ensuing controversy (see articles for and against Dr. Laura), and her decision to end her long-running radio program, highlight the extraordinary significance of the N-word term in American society.

The West Virginia Supreme Court recently dealt with the N-word in a case that highlights the great risks for employers when that word enters the workplace.

In PAR Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Bevelle , — W. Va. –, — S.E.2d –, 2010 WL 2244096 (June 3, 2010) (per curiam), the West Virginia Supreme Court dealt with a claim of a racially based hostile work environment under the West Virginia Human Rights Act, and concluded that the West Virginia Human Rights Commission was justified in finding for the employee. The decision was unanimous. Click here for the WV Human Rights Commission‘s decision which was affirmed by the WV Supreme Court.

A Single Day, With the N-Word Again and Again

PAR Electrical was building “giant towers” for a high voltage electrical transmission line. Richard Wayne Bevelle was hired by PAR Electrical on March 22, 2005, and, after working as a “groundman” assembling the tower bases, was assigned to load helicopters with parts to construct the towers (this helicopter job was described as a “gravy job” by the Human Rights Commission). Mr. Bevelle is African-American.

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Charleston, WV Jury Awards $1.7m in Age Discrimination Case, 10-1-09

On October 1, 2009, a jury in Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia returned a verdict in an age discrimination case, awarding James Nagy a total of $1,750,450.

The Lawsuit

James Nagy filed suit in Charleston in March 2008 against West Virginia American Water Company, alleging that he was fired in March 2007 because of his age at 53, after 23 years of employment.

James Nagy was represented by Maria W. Hughes and Stephen Weber at Kay Casto & Chaney PLLC. West Virginia American Water Company was represented by Mychal Schulz at Dinsmore & Shohl LLC.

The case is pending in Circuit Court in Kanawha County, West Virginia, before Judge Jennifer Bailey-Walker.

The Verdict

That $1,750,450 verdict consisted of:

  • $150,000 for humiliation,

Award of Attorney’s Fees and Expenses

Under the West Virginia Human Rights Act (which prohibits age and other forms of discrimination in the workplace), Nagy’s counsel filed a motion additionally requesting attorneys’ fees and expenses.

Judge Bailey-Walker awarded the plaintiff total attorney’s fees of $177,772.50, and $8,855.33 in expenses.

Appeal

The Defendant is in the process of appealing.  The issue of attorneys’ fees was resolved by Judge Bailey-Walker on June 8, 2010, so the appeal process is in its early stages as of the date of this article being updated (July 31, 2010). As things develop in the appeal, I will update this article.

July 31, 2010

Jackson County jury awards $2.1 million in age case

On March 17, 2010, a jury in Jackson County in West Virginia awarded Jerold John Rice Jr. roughly $2.1 million in an age discrimination case against The Burke-Parsons-Bowlby Corporation, Stella-Jones US Holdings Corporation, and Stella-Jones, Inc., tried in Judge Thomas C. Evans III’s court.

Mr. Rice was represented by Mark Atkinson and Paul Frampton at Atkinson & Polak, PLLC, and the defendants were represented by Roger Wolfe at Jackson & Kelly PLLC in Charleston, and Kevin Hyde at Foley & Lardner, LLP in Jacksonville, Florida.

Here is a quick run-down of what was awarded in the case:

  • Back pay: $142,659 awarded by jury.
  • Pre-judgment interest: $11,791.84 from date of termination through trial.
  • Front pay: $1,991,332.00 awarded by jury (from roughly age 48 through retirement age at 67).
  • Emotional distress: $0.
  • Punitive damages: Jury did not answer question affirmatively which would have allowed award of punitive damages.
  • Total judgment based on jury’s verdict: $2,145,782.84, plus post-judgment interest on that amount at 7% per annum.
  • Attorneys’ fees: $117,235 awarded by judge (based on $450 an hour for Mark Atkinson and $300 per hour for Paul Frampton).
  • Litigation expenses: $20,324.16 awarded by judge.
  • Total award: $2,283,342.00 (based on jury verdict, pre-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and expenses) plus post-judgment interest at 7% per annum.

The Rice case illustrates the risk employers face when they terminate an older, good, long-standing employee, and replace him or her with a much younger person with little or no experience for the employer.

What Happened?

Mr. Rice at the time of his termination (in 2009) was age 47 and had worked for Burke-Parsons-Bowlby Corporation for 24 years. When Mr. Rice was terminated he was the corporate controller.

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