The jury in Alonzo-Miranda v. Schlumberger Technology has returned a verdict. The jury found in favor of the veteran and awarded him $29,000 in total damages. That amount includes $5,386.50 in lost overtime wages and $23,205 in compensatory damages (emotional suffering type damages). The jury declined to award punitive damages. The jury deliberated for about two hours on Thursday, all day on Friday, and much of the day on Monday.
As the lawyer for the plaintiff said,” Today is a blue-ribbon day for America and the veterans who have protected us. San Antonio can be proud to be the place that lit the way for our veterans who suffer PTSD and who served us so well in war, and now want to serve us in peace.” From this Iraq veteran, “Dang right!”
See San Antonio Express News report (account required).
This was a very difficult case for the plaintiff. There is no caselaw or regulation that prescribes how long an employer can take in resolving a request for an accommodation. Schlumberger took over six months to resolve Mr. Alonzo-Moranda’s request. And, even then, it was his email direct to the CEO that resulted in a resolution. And, in the meantime, persons with disabilities can suffer significantly while they wait for an employer to reach a decision. Judges and juries are generally sympathetic to employers, since request for accommodation can be complicated. But, this time, the jury was not sympathetic with the long wait.
The amount awarded is funny. I can see the $5,386.50. That was probably based on actual calculation of the plaintiff’s lost pay. But, the rest, I think, is a response to the fact that Schlumberger hired a psychiatrist for $30,000.
This is a very significant victory for veterans. So many have experienced PTSD in the two recent wars. There are more and more service dogs out there. Goldie is far from the only service dog assisting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. And, I can speak from personal knowledge. Those dogs perform very well.
Next will come the application for attorney’s fees. The plaintiff’s lawyer, John Griffin, is nationally known and respected. He will seek a significant amount per hour. And, since these accommodation cases are very complicated, I am sure he invested a great dal of time on this case. 200 hours of attorney time is not unusual. All this when the employer could have, I am sure, settled the matter for much less than $30,000 long ago.