Court Remits Emotional Distress Damages Award in Employment Discrimination Case From $2M to $200K

In Emamian v. Rockefeller University, 07-cv-3919, 2018 WL 2849700 (S.D.N.Y. June 8, 2018) – a race/national origin discrimination case – the court held, inter alia, that the jury’s emotional distress damages award of $2 million was excessive, and remitted that award to $200,000.

After providing a summary of the relevant “black-letter” law in this area, the court explained:

A review of applicable case law shows that an award of $2,000,000.00 is excessive. Even the most egregious cases do not approach that figure. See Turley v. ISG Lackawanna, Inc., 774 F.3d 140, 151-52 (2d Cir. 2014) (upholding a federal award of $1,320,000.00 where plaintiff had been subject to “an extraordinary and steadily intensifying drumbeat of racial insults, intimidation, and degradation” over several years–including being referred to as a “n—–” by 30% of his co-workers and finding in his car a stuffed toy monkey with a noose around its neck–that caused post-traumatic stress disorder, short-term adjustment disorder, depression, a panic disorder and multiple hospitalizations); Brady v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 455 F. Supp. 2d 157, 198 (E.D.N.Y. 2006) (remitting jury award of $2,500,000.00 million to $600,000.00 under state standard where defendant repeatedly discriminated against boy based on his cerebral palsy condition, and boy suffered from mental breakdowns, serious emotional trauma, failure at school, and other effects); see also Caravantes v. 53rd St. Partners, LLC, No. 09 CIV. 7821 RPP, 2012 WL 3631276, at *24 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 23, 2012) (awarding $150,000.00 in damages at bench trial where plaintiff sought $400,000.00 after plaintiff’s superiors sexually assaulted him over a period of years and he developed “serious depression,” social withdrawal, insomnia, lowered energy level, impaired concentration, suicidal thoughts, sleep disturbance, and appetite disturbances).

The Court finds that Plaintiff’s claims for emotional distress fall into the intermediate, “significant emotional distress” category, given Plaintiff’s own testimony regarding her mental state, her trichotillomania and physical manifestations of her emotional suffering, as well as the corroborative medical testimony she presented. The Court finds an award of $200,000.00 to be appropriate.

Specifically, the court held that the facts here were analogous to those in Lore v. City of Syracuse, 670 F.3d 127 (2d Cir. 2012), where the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of remittitur following a jury verdict of $150,000.

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