Carney Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates, Inc., a Santa Monica-based litigation law firm specializing in employee rights, last week successfully convinced the Court of Appeal of the State of California to reverse a trial verdict that had limited his client’s damages in a wrongful termination claim.
The case was Martinez v. Rite Aid, in which Shegerian’s client, Maria Martinez, sued her former employer, Rite Aid Corporation, for wrongful termination in violation of public policy based on Martinez’s disability, age, medical leave of absence, and complaint of sexual harassment.
The case was originally tried to a jury over a four-week period starting in August of 2010. The jury returned a special verdict in favor of Martinez, and awarded her $3.4 million in compensatory damages and $4.8 million in punitive damages.
After Rite Aid appealed, the court reversed the judgment and remanded the matter for a new trial on compensatory damages. Once again, Shegerian argued wrongful termination in violation of public policy against Rite Aid and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Rite Aid and Kien Chau, Martinez’s former supervisor. At a retrial in 2014, the jury again ruled in favor of Martinez, but this time for the substantially smaller sum of $321,000 on the wrongful termination claim, nothing on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against Rite Aid, and $20,000 on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against Chau.
Subsequently, Shegerian helped Martinez appeal that judgment, asserting that the jury’s special verdicts were inconsistent as a matter of law.
Last week, the Court of Appeals issued the opinion that it agreed the jury’s special verdict findings were fatally inconsistent, and accordingly, reversed the judgment on the special verdict, remanding the matter for a new trial on the issue of compensatory damages.
“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision to reverse a previous verdict that significantly limited Ms. Martinez’s damages suffered due to the egregious behavior of Rite Aid and certain members of its supervisory staff,” said Shegerian. “Ms. Martinez was a hard-working, exemplary employee at Rite Aid for 23 years and was named ‘Employee of the Month’ 20 times and even ‘Employee of the Year’ twice. For her to have been harassed, discriminated against and ultimately fired after she spoke up about abusive and discriminatory treatment by her supervisor is outrageous. Thanks to the court’s ruling, we will now have the opportunity to retry our client’s damages on this significant public policy, disability, discrimination and sexual harassment case. It’s a long time coming, but we can finally help Ms. Martinez receive some closure on this.”
(Case No. BC401746)
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