Hard to Explain Jury Verdicts

Juries do the craziest things, sometimes.  In a trial a few years ago in the Rio Grande Valley, a jury returned a verdict following several days of testimony.  The verdict said yes, the employer violated anti-discrimination laws.  But, the jury said no, the employee did not suffer any lost pay or compensatory damages (emotional suffering).  But, regarding punitive damages, the jury awarded $200,000.  The employee apparently suffered from some Depression, so there was some issue regarding whether he truly mitigated his damages - that is, whether he actually could have and did look for comparable employment.  But, even with the possible failure to look for work, he should have been awarded well over $50,000 in lost pay. 

To award punitive damages but no lost pay or benefits goes against the trend of most juries.  In fact, most juries do just the opposite: they might award lost pay but nothing else.  And, under some federal caselaw, punitive damages with no emotional suffering type damages may not be supportable.  A court of appeals might find the award of punitive damages lacking in evidence and then take away the entire judgment.  So, it is a crazy jury verdict. 

The jury was deliberating a relatively long time - over two days, so they were probably deadlocked.  The crazy verdict may have resulted from compromises to break the deadlock.  I do not know what was offered to settle the case - if anything.  But, as my former judge used to say, "the worst settlement is better than the best trial."   Because, juries do the craziest things....

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