Jury Awards $1,000,000 but judge takes away punitives!

In July, a jury in New London awarded $1,000,000 to a former UPS employee in his termination suit.  (Michael Tomick v. UPS, cv 06-4008944 (New London).  He alleged negligent infliction of emotional distress, violation of the drug testing statute and disability discrimination. 

On October 28, 2010, the court addressed post trial motions.  It denied Defendant’s motions for remittitur but granted its motion to set aside the award of punitive damages ($500,000). 

In a thorough decision, the court canvassed the recent cases on the topic of whether or not CFEPA allows punitive damages.  The language of the statute is:

     Sec. 46a-104. Civil action for discriminatory practice: Relief. The court may grant a complainant in an action brought in accordance with section 46a-100 such legal and equitable relief which it deems appropriate including, but not limited to, temporary or permanent injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and court costs.

While the court did a thorough analysis, the basis of its ruling is unclear.  It simply wrote:

 “However, reviewing the legislative history, the policy that the legislation was designed to address and this section’s language as compared to other statutory sections, the court holds that punitive damages are not authorized in this case to be imposed by either the jury or the court.” 

This analysis simply has to be wrong.  First, the plain language of the statute is clear.  Punitive damages constitute a form of “legal…relief.”  The statute authorizes a court to award all “legal and equitable relief which it deems appropriate.”  Second, the legislative history is silent, the policy concerns favor a liberal interpretation and the other statutory sections don’t help.  The court had already acknowledged that the defense argument of double recovery was wrong. 

This ruling simply must be overturned. 

Kudos to Michael Colonese at Brown, Jacobson, P.C. for a fantastic job.