On the third day of Juan Alonzo-Miranda’s trial, he was cross-examined by the defense lawyer. The lawyer elicited testimony from the mechanic that when he was evacuated by ambulance to the VA hospital in May, 2012, the emergency room examination revealed problems with his wife and that he was contemplating suicide. But, the report did not mention any problems with work. Didn’t he mention problems at work, asked the lawyer? Mr. Alonzo-Miranda said the report might have been less than complete.
The defense attorney also elicited testimony that the young worker had a concealed handgun permit. He obtained the permit about a year after he had been diagnosed with PTSD. I am not sure about the point of this line of questioning, unless it is simply to show that despite his diagnosis, he was able to function and expose himself to a dangerous weapon.
At the close of the plaintiff’s case, the defense asked for a directed verdict. If granted, a directed verdict would indicate the judge did not believe there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find in favor of the plaintiff. It is a routine motion, even if the evidence for the plaintiff is strong. Judge Lamberth denied the motion.
So, with the motion denied, it was time for the defense to put on its case. The Schlumberger Human Resources representative testified. She said she did all she could to address the request for a service dog. She was not familiar with that sort of request. She was looking for some link between the service dog and Mr. Alonzo-Miranda’s ability to work. She wanted to see some reason why the dog would help him work.
If Mr. Alonzo-Miranda was blind and was asking to use a cane at work, she would not have asked that question. The need for a cane would be apparent. Emotional or mental illnesses are different. It is harder to explain the nature of the illness and the utility of the requested accommodation. But, the HR representative should have asked. She could have called the doctor or the cousnelor. Or, she simply could have asked Mr. Alonzo-Miranda.
Much will depend on how the jury sees this. Will they see a duty on the part of the HR representative to seek more information? Will the jury themselves doubt the need for a service dog at work? I had a trial just a year ago regarding a mental illness. I was struck then that the jury just did not appreciate the debilitating nature of a mental illness.
Trial will continue for a fourth day. See San Antonio Express-News report.