Emotional Distress Awards
153 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10014
more information on this memo, contact:
Friedman, Deputy Legal Director, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This memo was
written in July 2002, and updated in August 2003. A few additional
cases have been added since, but a comprehensive survey has not been
performed since August
The goal of the memo
was to survey emotional distress awards in all types of
confidentiality case and in other comparable areas. The bulk of the
research focused on New York State cases, but we also surveyed some
types of cases in other states. The memo surveys the following
categories of cases:
HIV confidentiality cases or cases discussing privacy
and health in any jurisdiction
Cases discussing damages for invasion of privacy and
defamation- non-health related.
Cases discussing damages for violations of
Constitutional right to privacy and state privacy torts in any
Damage awards under New York and New York City Human
Cases discussing presumed damages for defamation or
slander in New York
Damages for violation of privacy under the ADA in any
Damages for emotional distress from discrimination in
Intentional infliction of emotional distress in New York
EEOC, DOJ and HHS settlements and victories that use the
word “HIV” or “AIDS” nationally
Loss of consortium extended to non-married individuals
in any jurisdiction
Cases discussing damages for emotional distress stemming
from Constitutional violations
Nothing found for damages awarded under the Privacy Act
-- except Roe v. Social Security Adm. settlement
(Confidentiality cases -- NY).
Since the last update to this memo (dated 6/14/02), there is still
little discussion of damages for emotional distress. Also of note, New
York has not recognized a common law right of privacy. (See
Andrews v. Bruk, 610 N.Y.S.2d 752 (1994). However, the 2nd Circuit
has held that there is a recognized constitutional right to privacy in
personal information, such that the constitution protects the
individual interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters. (Doe
v. City of New York, 15 F.3d 264, 267 (1994)
• Roe v. Social Security Adminsitration, 03-CIV-3812
• Plaintiff sued Social Security Administration (SSA)
and an SSA employee (Claims Representative) for disclosing plaintiff's
HIV status to a third party without her consent.
• Plaintiff had applied for disability benefits, and the SSA
employee who conducted the application interview elicited Plaintiff's
health history and other details of her personal life and recognized
the name of Plaintiff's roommate and partner. Her partner was one of
the few trusted confidantes to whom Plaintiff had disclosed her HIV
status. Immediately after the interview, the SSA worker told a mutual
friend that Plaintiff Roe had AIDS. That person in turn spread the
news to others in their social circle.
• The SSA’s breach of her privacy emotionally devastated
Plaintiff. She immediately sought emergency psychiatric care and
eventually underwent psychiatric hospitalization to address the trauma
associated with the disclosure. She had two suicidal episodes and for
months, isolated herself from virtually all social activities.
• Plaintiff charged SSA with violating the Privacy Act, and
charged the employee with violating the Constitutional right to
• Defendants paid plaintiff a $65,000 settlement for her emotional
• Doe v. Courtien, CV 01-1655 (SJ)(VVP) (settled 2003).
• Plaintiff sued New York City police officer for
disclosing her HIV status to her sisters and nephew after she was
arrested in a domestic dispute.
• Claim was based on the violation of the Constitutional right to
• After discovery, case settled for $35,000 in damages
and $5,000 in attorneys' fees.
• Emotional harm: at least two of plaintiff's siblings cut her
off following the disclosure, which greatly upset plaintiff. She did
seek mental health counseling.
v. Mobile Health Management Services, settled 2002
• Pre-litigation settlement of $50,000, covering
emotional distress and about $1,000 in lost wages due to medical
office's disclosure of patient's HIV status to employer
• Plaintiff had gone to medical office for
pre-employment examination, during which he revealed his HIV
medications after obtaining assurances of that the information would
not be redisclosed to his new employer
• Medical office disclosed HIV status to
employer without written release and in contravention of verbal
assurances of non-disclosure.
• Word spread around plaintiff's new workplace,
causing him tremendous emotional distress for which he had to take
several days off, unpaid.
• Plaintiff became depressed -- crying often, withdrawing from
friends and family, and isolating himself. He did not seek mental
health treatment but confided in his primary care doctor.
Powell v. Schriver, 175 F.3d 107 (2d Cir. 1999)
Plaintiff, an inmate at Albion Correction Facility, sued
a correction officer, his supervisor and the facility for disclosing
to other inmates and staff members that she was an HIV positive
transsexual, alleging § 1983 violations of constitutional right to
privacy and Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual
Plaintiff complained that after disclosure she became
the target of regular harassment by both inmates and guards.
Plaintiff’s privacy claim proceeded to trial and a jury,
holding only the supervisor liable, awarded plaintiff $5,000 in
compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.
The district court held that a verdict absolving the
actor and holding the supervisor liable was “fatally inconsistent” and
set the verdict aside, holding in favor of both the CO and
supervisor. On appeal, the court held that the doctrine of qualified
immunity protected both the CO and his supervisor from liability. The
appeals court vacated the district court’s judgment dismissing
plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim and remanded the case for
reconsideration of this issue.
Doe v. New York City Dep’t. of Soc. Serv., 1995
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15547 (S.D.N.Y. 1995)
After substantial pre-trial discovery, court approved
proposed settlement of $25,000 to be divided equally among three
plaintiff children whose HIV status was improperly disclosed to
members of their family, other employees of the agency, people living
in their building, and private citizens in contact with them.
No discussion of emotional distress.
Doe v. Roe, 190 A.D.2d 463 (N.Y. App. Div. 1993)
Plaintiff saw doctor about an ear and sinus problem, and
told doctor he had HIV in course of medical examination. He
specifically asked doctor to keep that information confidential, and
she orally agreed. Plaintiff filed for workman’s compensation
asserting that the ear and sinus problem was a work-related injury,
and the medical record was subpoenaed. Doctor was authorized to
reveal medical information about the “above referenced claim,” but the
file she sent included information about the plaintiff’s HIV.
Plaintiff sued for compensatory and punitive damages for
defendant's disclosure of his HIV status on different theories:
negligence, breach of confidentiality, breach of oral contract, breach
of implied contract, and invasion of privacy.
Court affirmed that there was a cause of action for the
improper disclosure of the patient's HIV status, and compensatory and
punitive damages were appropriate. Damages issue reserved for trial
and is not reported.
Nolley v. County of Erie, 802 F.Supp. 898 (W.D.N.Y.
Defendants’ Red Sticker Policy disclosed to non-medical
prison staff that Nolley was HIV+ in violation of her Constitutional
privacy right and New York’s Public Health Law.
Nolley was upset by disclosure, but did not expressly
link her emotional distress to the disclosures. However, she did
provide ample evidence of emotional distress resulting from facility’s
segregation policy, a due process violation.
Reasoning from presumed damages in defamation per se,
Court found that presumed damages are appropriate in a cause of action
founded on the unwarranted disclosure of one’s HIV status, since the
revelation is virtually certain to cause injury and mental distress,
yet injury is difficult to prove.
Nolley was awarded $9,300 in compensatory damages for
violation of privacy: $6,200 for emotional distress, $3,100 presumed
An unrelated punitive damage award was later thrown
I could not find another case discussing or awarding
presumed damages for privacy violation.
Doe v. Roe, 400 N.Y.S.2d 668 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1977)
Psychiatrist published book reporting verbatim on former
patient Doe’s feelings, emotions, sexual and other fantasies and
biography, intimate personal relationships and the break-up of her
Court recognized right to confidentiality in all
disclosures made by patient to doctor in course of treatment arising
from public policy and contract.
As consequence of publication, former patient’s
well-being and emotional health were significantly impaired for three
years; she suffered from insomnia and nightmares, and became reclusive
due to shame and humiliation.
Judge awarded $20,000 (which included $1,500 loss in
business and $1,400 in medical attention).
Doe v. American Medical Pharmacies, Inc., 2002 WL
857766 (Mich. Ct. App. 2002
HIV-positive plaintiff had altercation with pharmacy
employee at a medical clinic in his community. Employee stated,
“you’re the m____ f___ with AIDS” three times in a loud voice in
presence of twenty-five to forty people seated in waiting room.
Plaintiff’s mother and two of his nieces were in waiting
room. Before this, they did not know he was HIV-positive, as
plaintiff had only told his partner and probation officer. Plaintiff
did not know anyone else in the waiting room personally, but knew a
few generally from around the neighborhood.
A few days later, one of the men from the waiting room
referred to plaintiff as “the one from the doctor’s office with AIDS,”
and in the ensuing months continued to verbally harass plaintiff,
culminating in severe physical beatings. Plaintiff suffered public
humiliation, social ridicule, and significant deterioration in
relationship with his mother.
Jury awarded plaintiff $100,000. Trial court granted
defendant’s motion for JNOV, Michigan Court of Appeals reversed.
Doe v. Chand, Case No. 99-L-738-A (March, 2001)
Plaintiff alleged defendant physician negligently and
improperly disclosed her HIV status to third parties, causing her to
suffer severe emotional distress. Plaintiff said defendant’s conduct
set off chain of gossip in their small town and she was forced to
leave her job due to pain and humiliation and emotional distress.
Case tried before judge without jury. Court awarded
Doe v. Chand, 335 Ill App.3d 809 (September 4,
(Chand) and medical office appealed the judgment of the Circuit Court
(Case No. 99-L-738-A, March 2001).
Appellate court found that they were not entitled to a
jury trial because the claim against them was not the required claim
at common law.
Even though it was found that the patient had shown ACA
(AIDS Confidentiality Act) violations, the court stated that ACA cases
did not permit punitive damage awards, therefore the award for
$300,000 punitive damages was reversed.
The court concluded that the record did not support the
finding that Doe's actual damages were $600,000, since, even though
there were numerous violations of the ACA, there was no mention of
what the violations were, how many there were, which violations were
negligent and which were intentional or reckless, and that Doe did not
submit any evidence of or seek compensation for any medical bills,
lost wages, or other out-of-pocket expenses.
Based on the above, the case was remanded for a new
trial on actual damages.
Doe v. Medlantic Healthcare Group, Inc., 814 A.2d
939 (2003 D.C. App. LEXIS 2)
Plaintiff awarded $250,000 after hospital employee
gained access to his confidential medical records and spread news of
his HIV diagnosis to friends and co-workers.
As result of disclosure, plaintiff had been teased about
his sexual orientation, subjected to remarks about his condition, and
avoided by some co-workers.
Even though the jury awarded the patient $250,000, the
trial court granted the healthcare group's motion for JNOV.
Upon appeal, the court reversed the trial court's
judgment and remanded the case with instructions that the jury's
verdict for the patient be reinstated.
Pharmacy case: A California man sued Longs
Pharmacy for invasion of privacy and violations of state regulations
regarding the confidentiality of medical information after a
pharmacist revealed to the man=s
ex-wife and sons that the medicine the man was taking was for AIDS.
The case settled before trial and the settlement remains
confidential. See AIDS Policy and Law, Vol. 13, No. 18
(Oct. 2, 1998)
Ozer v. Borquesz, 940 P.2d 371 (Colo. 1997
Borquesz told Ozer, president of his law firm, that his
partner had HIV and he needed to leave work to be tested. Ozer
revealed the information to wife, firm’s office manager, and two
secretaries, and soon whole office knew. Borquesz was fired a week
Borquesz brought wrongful discharge and invasion of
privacy claims, seeking compensatory and exemplary damages.
Jury awarded $90,841: $30,841 compensatory damages for
wrongful discharge and $20,000 for invasion of privacy, and $40,000
On appeal, CO Supreme Court affirmed recognition of tort
of invasion of privacy but remanded for new trial because jury was
given wrong instructions.
Case eventually settled for $106,000 in damages and
interest. (See AIDS Policy and Law, Vol. 13 No. 6
(Sept. 4, 1998)).
Doe v. High-Tech Institute, Inc.: Former medical
student won a $12,000 award from a Colorado jury on claim that the
school invaded his privacy by publicly disclosing confidential medical
information to third parties. The student had told his instructor
that he was HIV positive and later, after a blood test for rubella,
which was required of all students, the instructor marked the student=s
blood sample as HIV positive. The lab that performed the test
reported the result to the State Department of Health. The student
sued the school and the lab for invasion of privacy. While the lab
settled out of court, the school took the case to trial. Originally,
the jury awarded the student $15,000, but that award was reduced by
$3,000 when the jury decided that both the lab and the student were
each ten percent responsible for the disclosure. See AIDS
Policy and Law, Vol. 13, No. 16 (Sept. 4, 1998)
Doe v. Kokomo, No. IP 96-0235-C-G/T, (S.D. Ind.
March 18, 1997): Police officer in Kokomo, IN, demanded a new waiter
because he didn’t want to be served by an AIDS-infested person. The
plaintiff sued the police department and the officer, claiming
violations of the right to privacy under the U.S. Constitution and
state laws prohibiting disclosure of HIV information. Doe had
revealed his HIV status to his immediate family only and a friend, who
later told the officer the information. Reynolds was on duty at the
time of the disclosure. The city settled the case for $60,000, with
part going to the plaintiff and part to his attorneys. See
AIDS Policy and Law, Vol. 12, No. 7 (April 8, 1997)
Dahir v. State of Cal. Dep’t of Transp., Case No.
BC079 508 (1995)
Plaintiff’s HIV status wrongfully disclosed to his
supervisors and fellow worker. Information leaked out all over
office. Plaintiff claimed violation of right to privacy, which caused
him to lose his job.
Plaintiff awarded $950,000 plus attorneys fees.
Multimedia WMAZ, Inc. v. Kubach, 443 S.E.2d 491
(Ga. Ct. App. 1994).
Kubach agreed to participate in defendant’s live call-in
show on the topic of AIDS and drug use on the condition that his face
would not be recognizable to the television audience. For the first
seven seconds of the show, however, defendant’s digital distortion was
inadequate and plaintiff’s face was recognizable.
Plaintiff became withdrawn, extremely depressed and
almost suicidal. He refused to leave home out of fear of being
recognized as an AIDS patient, and on the one occasion when he did go
out he was recognized and harassed. He was unable to continue working
for fear of interacting with public. Plaintiff’s doctor testified
that the stress and emotional upset had a detrimental effect on his
physical condition, manifested in shingles and damage to his immune
Georgia Court of Appeals upheld jury award of $500,000
in general damages for invasion of privacy but wrote off punitive
damage award of $100.
Vassiliades v. Garfinkel’s, 492 A2d 580 (D.C.
Vassiliades’ plastic surgeon used before and after
photographs of her at a department store presentation and on
television. On television, her face was visible for less than a
minute and her name not used, but former co-worker recognized her and
told friends. Store presentation was made to seventy-nine people,
none of whom recognized her.
After Vassiliades learned of disclosure, she was
devastated, shocked, and felt terrible. She went into depression and
would not go out in public because she thought everyone was talking
about her surgery. She sought recovery only for a sixty-day period.
Jury awarded $100,000 for the television presentation
and $250,000 for the department store presentation.
Trial judge granted JNOV on grounds the verdict was
against weight of evidence, contrary to evidence, and excessive.
Appellate court found error in granting doctor’s JNOV
motion on invasion of privacy claim. It acknowledged room for large
verdicts for emotional distress:
“A plaintiff whose private life is given publicity may recover damages
for the harm to her reputation or interest in privacy resulting from
the publicity and also for the ‘emotional distress or personal
humiliation . . . if it is of a kind that normally results from such
an invasion and it is normal and reasonable in its extent.’ …Actual
harm need not be based on pecuniary loss, and emotional distress may
be shown simply by the plaintiff's testimony… Proof of special damages
is not required…Because the damages arising from the tort constitute
psychic and emotional harm and the tort is defined in terms of the
mores of the community… mental distress lawsuits offer the potential
for large verdicts, although little objective evidence is available to
test the size of a jury award for mental distress.”
Noting the great deference due trial courts in reviewing
for abuse of discretion, the court found verdict for a sixty-day
period of $350,000 was at least at the outer limits of the maximum
range of a reasonable verdict, and remanded for new trial on damages.
INVASION OF PRIVACY & DEFAMATION/ NON-HEALTH RELATED
Margan v. Niles 250 F. Supp. 2d 63 (2003)
First case brought under the federal Driver's Privacy
Protection Act which not only protects the person (whose personal
information was revealed), but anyone in the household.
After obtaining benefits for an allegedly job-related
injury, defendant's employer launched an
The investigators filmed Mr. Niles, who had complained
of a back injury, performing activities that were inconsistent with
the alleged injury.
Defendant obtained the motor vehicle license numbers of
the investigators, then asked a friend, a Police Officer, to obtain
the investigators names by cross-referencing their license data.
That information was used to harass the plaintiff and
In a settlement agreement, $325,000 was paid to 16
Anonymous 13 year old female v. McVittie Case No.
01-18487-NZ (2/7/03) (Livingston County, Michigan)
Plaintiff, a 23 year old Aspiring model, was secretly
videotaped as she was changing clothes at the talent agency where she
Plaintiff sued defendant and sought emotional distress
damages for humiliation and loss of trust in people and for destroying
her dream of becoming a model.
$575,250 was awarded to the plaintiff
Breakdown: $250,000 for IIED ($125,000 emotional
distress and $125,000 examplary damages), $325,000 for invasion of
privacy ($75,000 invasion of privacy and $250,000 exemplary damages)
Faulkner v. Blackford, Case No. 02-05015-J
(06/19/02) (Dallas County, Texas)
Plaintiff, Faulkner, and defendant Blackford, ended a
relationship in April 2002. Communications became hostile and
plaintiff requested that defendant have no further contact with him.
Plaintiff alleged that defendant sent emails to his
supervisors at work and the president of the company. He later sent
explicit photographs of the plaintiff
Plaintiff also alleged that the defendant had admitted
placing "spyware" software on the plaintiff's personal computer, and
stated that he believed this software to still be operating at the
time of the suit. This included stalking the plaintiff's computer use
on the internet.
The plaintiff filed suit for defamation and invasion of
Plaintiff was awarded $50,900
Varian Medical Systems v. Delfino, Case No.
780187 (12/17/01) (San Jose, California)
Plaintiff claim that the defendants, Delfino and Day-
research scientists formerly employed by the plaintiff businesses,
posted more than 14,000 defamatory and sometimes vulgar messages on
more than 100 internet message boards as well as their own web site.
Plaintiff alleged these defamatory and vulgar statements
on the Internet included accusations of having extramarital affairs,
videotaping office bathrooms, chronically lying and hallucinating.
Defendants denied responsibility for some of the
postings and claimed that the statements they did post were true or
merely constituted opinion and hyperbole protected by the First
Plaintiff filed suit for libel and invasion of privacy
Jury awarded $775,000 ($425,000 compensatory damages;
$350,000 punitive damages)
Internet Texoma v. Morales, (8/7/97) (Grayson
Plaintiff, an ISP (Internet Service Provider), sued
defendant to protect electronic mail and other data sought in a
Republic of Texas lien investigation.
Defendant sought email, passwords, logs, billing and
other information on 17 individuals alleging the separatists had used
the internet to communicate with members.
Plaintiff contended that providing information to the
state would violate the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act
and alleged that the attorney general attempted to force them to
violate federal law and subscriber's privacy.
The case settled for $12,630.
New York recognizes presumed damages for claims of defamation, libel,
slander per se. Given that Nolley reasoned from damages for
defamation per se to find presumed damages for privacy violation, it’s
worth noting that an accusation that someone had a “loathsome disease”
is slander per se.
Doe v. Shields, Case No. 6410/00 (11/12/2002)
Plaintiff, a 22 year old student, was at a social
gathering at a private residence when the alleged incident occured.
Plaintiff sued defendant, Shields, for defamation/
breach of confidentiality for telling several people at the gathering
that she, plaintiff, was taking Valtrex to treat genital herpes.
Three independent witnesses testified that defendant
made such statements
Injuries alleged: emotional distress, loss of appetite;
$15,000 awarded for compensatory damages.
Frederick v. Fried, Case No. 1017/89 (09/24/2002)
Plaintiff brought action for defamation and slander per
se against defendant, with whom he had a business relationship for
over 25 years. Defendant told people that plaintiff was a thief, a
crook and a crooked lawyer who stole trust funds, escrow funds and
tenant's security, as well as stealing from the defendant.
Plaintiff contended that his business interests suffered
because defendant made false statements to colleagues and friends with
whom he did business.
Plaintiff was awarded $1,000,000 ($500,000 for
compensatory damages; $500,000 for punitive damages).
Gatz v. Otis Ford, Inc., 711 N.Y.S.2d 467 (N.Y.
App. Div. 2000).
Defamation judgment awarding $25,000 compensatory
damages and $15,000 punitive damages reversed because counterclaim
defendant was limited in cross-examination of witnesses and precluded
from introducing mitigating evidence.
“In cases involving defamation per se, the law presumes
that damages will result, and special damages need not be alleged or
proven. However, although the existence of compensatory damages is
presumed, the quantum of such damages is not, and the party who made
the defamatory statement and/or publication must be permitted to rebut
that presumption and disprove the amount of damages sought to be
Liberman v. Gelstein, 80 N.Y.2d 429 (N.Y.,1992)
Defendant accused plaintiff, among other things, of
bribing a police officer.
Plaintiff did not allege special damages but slander
claim was sustainable because it fell into one of four exceptions.
“The four established exceptions (collectively ‘slander per se’)
consist of statements (i) charging plaintiff with a serious crime;
(ii) that tend to injure another in his trade, business or profession;
(iii) that plaintiff has a loathsome disease; or (iv) imputing
unchastity to a woman.” (Italics added).
Above applies to libel and slander (See
Wadsworth v. Beaudet, 267 A.D.2d 727, N.Y. App. Div. 1999).
Jane Doe v. Merck & Co., 10786/1998 (NYLJ,
June 3, 2002)
Plaintiff agreed to publication of her photograph in
fact sheet about AIDS medication, instead photo was used in brochure
for drug accompanied by fake bio suggesting she was sexually
promiscuous, and had herpes as well as HIV.
Jury awarded $2 million in punitive damages and $1
million in compensatory damages.
Judge threw out punitive damage award and reduced
compensatory damages to $650,000, stating the brochure’s effect on her
“psychological, emotional, and overall well being” warranted a
“substantial” award of $650,000
Simpson v. Burrows, 90 F.Supp.2d 1108 (D. Ore.
Simpson and her partner purchased and ran a restaurant.
Over the course of a year, beginning two weeks after plaintiff’s
purchase of the restaurant, defendant sent twelve letters, some to the
plaintiff and some to other residents of the area. The letters
referred to homosexuality as an “immoral abomination” and threatened
violence against plaintiff, her partner, and their supporters.
Plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress: she and
her partner broke up due to friction in the relationship caused by
fear generated by the letters; she bought a gun because she was afraid
all the time and felt her life was in jeopardy; she was afraid to go
anywhere in the dark; she had trouble sleeping and was afraid of
noises; she suffered nightmares, embarrassment, loss of dignity, and
various physical problems such as stomach aches, headaches, and crying
fits. In addition, business declined.
Plaintiff filed claim under the Violence Against Women
Act. Claim dismissed, but federal court retained jurisdiction over
state law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress,
intimidation, invasion of privacy and libel.
Jury trial waived. Judge awarded $200,000 in
compensation for the harm to plaintiff’s emotional health and state of
mind, $52,500 for loss of business, and $5000 in punitive damages.
Punitive damages appropriate under state constitution because
prohibition on such damages excepted for “true threats.”
Additionally, judge indicated higher punitive award might have been
appropriate, but plaintiff failed to introduce evidence of defendant’s
Cable v. Todisco, 2001 WL 1555372 (Cal. Ct. App.
Cable’s former business partner told several people he
was dying of AIDS and had been practicing bad medicine. Cable’s
patient referral base began to dwindle and he sought psychological
treatment for depression and anxiety.
Cable brought action for defamation and infliction of
Only evidence of emotional distress mentioned in case
was when Cable was asked whether he sought psychological counseling as
result of what Todisco had been saying about him, he replied “yes.”
Award for $27,000 in counseling costs (from a requested
$53,760) and $250,000 for loss of business upheld.
New York awards for
emotional distress from discrimination, where plaintiff did not
require medical treatment, generally range from $5,000 to $65,000.
Three cases involving workplace discrimination based on disability and
one based on racial discrimination in housing were higher (See
Fink v. City of New York, McIntyre v. Ford, and
Broome v. Biondi). Awards for emotional distress when
discrimination was based on HIV status are significantly higher, as
much as $5 million. Perhaps juries associate greater emotional pain
with HIV than age or race discrimination. Additionally, suits for HIV
discrimination may arise under statutes with no or higher caps on
D.B. v. Bloom Civ. # 93-2094 (8/15/95) (New
Plaintiff was refused service after dentist discovered
he was tested positive for HIV.
The refusal of treatment, the doctor's open discussion
of his medical condition with other staff, and the inappropriate
referral to another provider caused the plaintiff great pain and
He stopped eating and exercising, and his weight dropped
from 155 to 126 pounds. His consumption of alcoholic beverages
increased, and he resumed drug therapy for depression.
He experienced suicidal urges, which manifested
themselves in reckless driving, and dangerous, aggressive behavior in
his work with inmates in state prisons.
The experience also caused his relationship with his
partner to end and strained his relationship with others.
The experience left the palintiff permanently scared
and "absolutely terrified" that others would react to his HIV status
as the defendants did.
Plaintiff's motion for default judgement was granted and
he was awarded $31,967.61 for fees and costs in action against dentist
and dental office under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
Howe v. Hull 873 F. Supp. 72 (N.D. Ohio 1994)
Plaintiff brought suit alleging that the defendants
refused to provide him medical treatment because he was infected with
Plaintiff was allegedly on vacation, took a medication
which he had not taken before, and had an allergic reaction.
He sought treatment from defendant who referred him
elsewhere due to his AIDS/HIV status
Jury awarded HIV-positive patient whom hospital refused
treatment and inappropriately referred elsewhere $62,000 in
compensatory damages and a total of $450,000 in punitive damages.
Minnesota v. Clausen 491 N.W. 2d 662 (Minn. Ct
of App. 1992)
Defendant offered general dental services to the public
and usually accepted as a patient any person who requested dental
He refused to provide dental services to the plaintiff
after plaintiff tested positive for HIV.
Defendant testified that he believed he should refer HIV
positive patients in order to protect their health and his lack of
knowledge about the disease
The court affirmed the award of $10,000 for mental
anguish and suffering for refusal of dentist to treat HIV positive
patient, plus $5,000 civil penalty.
In the Matter of 119-121 East 97th Street
Corp. et al., v. New York City Commission on Human Rights, 220
A.D.2d 79 (N.Y. App. Div. 1996)
Complainant’s landlords discriminated against him on the
basis of sexual orientation and disability (AIDS status) by repeated
verbal and written attacks over a period of a year and a half.
Landlords commissioned someone or acted themselves to
burglarize complainant’s apartment, disable his locks, and turn off
his electricity. They refused to accept his timely rent checks or
renew his lease, and commenced eviction proceedings. They verbally
and physically accosted him and encouraged their employees to do the
same, including calling him, in public, “faggot punk,” “male whore,” “sicko,”
telling him he had AIDS and they hoped he died, leaving threatening
messages on his answering machine, distributing a notice to tenants in
his building informing them of his complaint and his HIV status and
warning other tenants not to cooperate with him. Complainant’s
testimony was corroborated by his attorney, his employer, and his
Commissioner awarded $100,000 for mental anguish and
assessed a $75,000 civil penalty against the defendant.
Court found mental anguish award amply supported by
record, specifically citing the multiple incidents of discrimination,
evidence of maliciousness and existence, duration, and severity of
mental distress. During time of harassment complainant was “suffering
with the serious and incurable illness of AIDS.” During that period
he suffered growing anger, sense of outrage and horror, was angry and
tired of having such a negative place to live in, already felt sick at
the time so the harassment made it worse, made him depressed, heard
the landlord’s voice during a hospitalization for his illness, “her
voice just kept coming back, that she hopes I would die from AIDS and
I really thought that that was what was happening.” He felt
threatened, personally violated, feared for his own personal safety.
When the landlord publicly told him she hoped he would die a slow and
painful death, it played with his worst fears of the disease since “I
just know that that will be what will happen.”
Complainant’s relationship with employer was damaged
after landlords mailed copy of complaint with information contained
that he was gay and HIV+ and the added notation that he is “dangerous
and vicious.” Where previously a lot of work would be done out of her
personal home, now complainant was no longer invited. Where
previously there was a lot of hugging, after the revelation there was
just distance. Complainant felt like he was dirty and going to spread
something by his mere presence.
Employer testified that he was upset, disturbed,
couldn’t concentrate, very nervous and disoriented. (Court
characterized this corroborating testimony as unnecessary.)
Civil penalty reduced to $25,000.
In the Matter of Club Swamp Annex v. White, 167
A.D.2d 400 (N.Y. App. Div. 1990)
Complainant waiter was diagnosed with “AIDS-related
complex” and confided his diagnosis to restaurant’s part owner.
Waiter was told he might have to be reassigned to kitchen, “out of
sight of the patrons.” When other part owner found out (court doesn’t
say how he found out) he reduced complainant’s work schedule without
explanation. Within a month complainant was discharged because
employer “couldn’t face” him in his restaurant since he had ARC.
ALJ found for defendant, commissioner reversed, E.D.N.Y.
Case does not discuss evidence of emotional distress but
only mentions a $5000 award for mental anguish was not disturbed.
Grocery Store Case
Grocery store in Westport, Mo agreed to settle HIV
discrimination suit filed by former deli worker for $80,000 in back
wages and damages. Employee said the store manages inquired about his
HIV status and revealed it to others before discharging him.
Settlement announced March 11, 2002.
See AIDS Policy and Law, (exact cite
Krause v. Quality Foods IGA
Krause, a fifteen-year-old with HIV, brought suit
against Quality Foods (with the EEOC) for violation of ADA after she
was fired because manager feared her HIV presented a danger to
customers and other employees.
Case settled for $90,000
See AIDS Policy and Law, Vol. 17, No. 4
(March 1, 2002).
Rich v. McDonald’s (Case No: cv 368
Rich forced to sign medical waiver as condition of
employment and revealed he had AIDS. His award-winning McDonald’s
career was subsequently thwarted and he was subjected to
Jury awarded Rich $5M.
See AIDS Policy and Law, Vol. 16, No. 21
(Nov. 23, 2001).
U.S. v. Neurological Surgery, Inc.
DOJ brought suit against a group of privately practicing
neurosurgeons in Tulsa for violations of the ADA after one of the
doctors refused to provide medical services to an individual because
of his HIV.
Case settled for $40,000 damages and $10,000 civil
“Philadelphia Addresses HIV Discrimination”
Philadelphia entered an agreement resolving a complaint
alleging that Philadelphia Fire Department EMT’s refused to assist an
individual when they learned he had AIDS.
$10,000 compensatory damages, plus a written apology to
the individual and mandatory training.
See Enforcing the ADA—July 26, 2000: Special
Tenth Anniversary Edition, 27, available at
George Washington University HIV Discrimination
Cardiothoracic surgeons at George Washington University
Hospital refused to perform heart surgery on a patient with HIV in
violation of the ADA.
Agreement required GWUH to pay $125,000 to complainant.
See Enforcing the ADA—July 26, 2000: Special
Tenth Anniversary Edition, 29, available at
New Orleans Dentist Liable for Refusal to Treat Patient
Dentist referred patients with HIV or AIDS to another
dentist solely on the basis of the patient’s HIV status.
Under consent order, doctor agreed to pay $60,000 in
damages to the family of one deceased patient and $60,000 to another.
See Enforcing the ADA—July 26, 2000: Special
Tenth Anniversary Edition, 29, available at
Shead v. Liberty Center, Inc., Case No. 89-1176
(Nov. 15, 1991)
Plaintiff contended defendant wrongfully denied him
housing and employment in violation of Florida law because he was
Plaintiff contended violation resulted in humiliation,
stress, and negative health effects of living on street for a year.
Jury found plaintiff was discriminated against in both
housing and employment by agency that receives state funding, awarded
$59,000, including $20,000 punitive.
Gruber v. Washington State Ferry System, Case #
91-2-23074-9 (January, 1994)
Plaintiff contended that he was harassed and forced to
go on unpaid leave due to his HIV-positive status, and that the
defendant failed to find him a suitable transfer when his heath
declined so severly that he could not perfom his duties. Plaintiff
further contended that his condition was worsened by constant
harassment because he was a homosexual
Harm alleged, emotional distress
The jury awarded $40,000 for lost wages, $10,000 for
emotional distress and $55,000 on the discrimination claim (unclear as
to whether claim was due to HIV positive status or plaintiff's
Webster v. Broward Casting Foundry, Inc., No.
00-8987 (05) (9/28/01) (Broward County, Florida)
Plaintiff was employed by defendant for several years.
On Aug 21, 1998, he advised the defendant of his HIV status and state
that he would be getting HIV treatment for 3 days at the end of the
Upon his return to work on September 4th, his employment
was terminated. However, the termination was rescinded upon further
explaining his absence and explaining that he would be absent
periodically because of his reaction to strong medication
He was subsequently given a written warning for
excessive absences and his employment was terminated.
The plaintiff filed a charge under the Florida Civil
Rights Act of 1992, claiming that he was placed under greater scrutiny
and treated differently than those employees who were not HIV
Plaintiff acknowledged that his past attendance record
was poor but claimed that prior to his disclosure of his HIV status,
the defendant tolerated occasional lateness to work.
The jury awarded the plaintiff $50,000 ($10,000 in pain
and suffering and $40,000 in lost wages).
Doe v. Koh, Commisioner for Dep't of Public Health,
Number 97-1724(12/3/99) (Norfolk County, MA)
Plaintiff's employment was terminated after working as a
manager for the defendant.
Plaintiff alleged that defendant terminated him ten days
after disclosing to his supervisor that he was HIV positive.
Plaintiff was awarded $73,500 ($65,000 compensatory
damages, $8,500 punitive damages)
The following cases where referenced in D. B. v. Bloom Civ. No.
2094 (8/15/95) but I could not find the cases on Lexis/Westlaw,
therefore not much information included.
U.S. v. Castle, No. H-93-3140 (S.D.Tx 1994),
reprinted in 1994 AIDS Litigation Reporter 12602 (October 11, 1994)
(Consent Order) (respondents agreed to payment of $80,000 in
compensatory damages to dental patient allegedly denied services due
to HIV-positive status, in addition to $20,000 in civil fines.
Allen v. Brottman, Case No.9K-P-D-88-132330 (New
York State Division of Human Rights, January 26, 1993) (dentist denied
servies to patient based on patient's sister's AIDS diagnosis, patient
awarded $25,000 in compensatory damages).
Moloney v. All County Transportation, Docket No.
91-216PA (New York City Commission on Human Rights, July 19,
1991)(damages of $15,000 awarded for invalid coach driver's refusal to
assist HIV-positive patient).
Butner v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Case #
Plaintiffs were four female state troopers who became
pregnant during the course of their employment.
Defendant's official policy was to send pregnant women
to physicians for evaluations to determine whether they could continue
their regular jobs, specifically, an ability to perform all functions
on a essential task list provided by the defendant..
The doctors determined that the plaintiffs could not
perform all the tasks on the list and they were placed on restricted
Plaintiffs alleged that the task list was never adopted
by the union and the task list was discriminatory in that it was not
applied across the board. Further, the tasks included those most
troopers never perform in their career, such as roping large animals.
$1,041,000 was awarded to plaintiff ($1,000,000 in
punitive damages; $250,000 to each plaintiff) for pregnancy
discrimination resulting in emotional distress.
Griffin v. MDK Food Service, Case # 409,555
Plaintiff worked as a restaurant manager at two
different Denny's locations owned by MDK Food Service Inc.
Plaintiff claimed that he was subjected to racial
discrimination from his boss and other employees.
Plaintiff sought damages for past wages lost and
emotional distress from the discrimination and was awarded $600,000
($500,000 in punitive damages, $100,000 in pain and suffering)
Shadinger v. Barram, Case # 99-CV-1743(1/17/02)
Plaintiffs, two white males, sought promotions which
they did not receive.
Plaintiffs alleged they were denied the promtions on the
basis of their ages, sex and race since there was a policy in effect
that resulted in a pattern of promotion of minorities, females and
The jury found for the plaintiffs on the sex and race
discrimination claims and awarded $115,000 ($50,000 compensatory
damages for emotional distress for one of the plaintiffs; $65,000 for
the other including $18,000 back pay and $47,000 compensatory damages
for emotional distress.)
Kuehn v. Seattle-King County Dep't of Public Health
(Case # not avail) (6/02)
Plaintiff, female autopsy technician, contented that
while working as a technician for defendant, she was subjected to a
hostile work environment on account of her gender.
Injury alleged was emotional distress and plaintiff was
awarded $150,000 (including $95,000 in lost wages).
Cox v. Sandusky City Schools, Case # 3:00CV7657
(3/21/02) (Lucas County, Ohio)
Plaintiff was an assistant principal at Sandusky High
School. The position of principal eventually became vacant and was
awarded to another individual, a less experienced Caucasian assistant
Plaintiff alleged that he was not given notice of the
opening and had been denied an opportunity to compete because of his
age and race.
The jury found that race was not a motivating factor,
but that age was a determining factor when the defendants denied
plaintiff the promotional opportunity.
$238,000 was awarded to plaintiff. (past and future wage
Robel v. Roundup Corp., 148 Wn. 2d 35 (2002)
Robel sued employer for disability discrimination,
retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim, negligent and
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation
Robel brought suit after sustaining workplace injury and
being taunted and harassed by other workers concerning that injury.
Trial court awarded Robel $51,902.50 in damages, along
with reasonable attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeals reversed
the trial court's judgement on all claims. However, the Washington
Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial
court's judgment regarding:(1) Robel's claim of disability
discrimination, (2) retaliation for filing a workers' compensation
claim and (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress. The
reversal of the trial court's judgement for Robel on her defamation
claim was affirmed and Robel's request for attorney fees on appeal was
Allenson v. Norton School Committee, Case #
BRCV200001059 (3/10/03) (Bristol County, MA)
Plaintiff was an special needs teacher allegedly
reinjured by a student after recovering from a disc herniation she
suffered in an auto accident.
Subsequently, she unsuccessfully interviewed for two
vacant special needs positions with defendant and she filed a
complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)
alleging disability discrimination and retaliation.
The MCAD complaint was dismissed after the plaintiff
filed a civil action aginst the Norton School Committee.
Plaintiff was eventually discharged by the defendant and
asserted that she was a qualified handicapped person who was
discriminated against and terminated because of her handicap.
Plaintiff was awarded $33,363 ($30,000 for loss of
employment and $3,363 for emotional
Uddin v. New York City/Admin. for Children’s Serv.,
2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19373 (S.D.N.Y. 2001)
Uddin charged ACS with national origin discrimination in
violation of the Civil Rights Act after several of his supervisors
subjected him to various adverse employment actions, a hostile work
environment and retaliation because he was Bangladeshi.
Jury awarded $60,000 compensatory damages.
City moved for new trial on grounds that jury should not
have been charged on the issue of emotional distress damages because
plaintiff failed to present evidence of physical manifestations of his
distress, and the $60,000 verdict could not have been reached without
some award for emotional damages, and because its impossible to
ascertain to portion of the award was for emotional distress.
Court upheld the award, pointing out plaintiff pointed
to concrete emotional problems having tangible physical consequences,
including insomnia and reduced energy due to depression; distress not
limited to humiliation.
Fink v. City of New York, 129 F.Supp.2d 511 (E.D.N.Y.
Plaintiff, retired fire marshal, prevailed on claims of
discrimination on the basis of military status and perceived
disability, a hearing loss.
Fink was awarded $300,00 for emotional distress.
Evidence consisted of plaintiff’s testimony and that of
his wife. Plaintiff testified that as a result of defendant’s actions
he went to work sick to his stomach (where previously he loved his
job), he was upset, had headaches, got up in the middle of the night,
didn’t look forward to going to work. He was embarrassed to be
thought of as disabled, like he was not a real man. Court found him
credible and a conscientious worker whose work was an essential
element of his identity and self-esteem and who had been humiliated by
the defendant’s actions.
Considering the frequency of plaintiff’s symptoms, the
etiology of his emotional distress, which persisted over the course of
years and was ongoing as of trial, the court remitted the emotional
distress damages to $175,000.
Annis v. County of Westchester, 136 F.3d 239 (2nd Cir.
Plaintiff, a police officer, alleged sex discrimination on the
job and brought suit under § 1983. She prevailed on the question of
liability, but the case was remanded on the question of damages.
Annis received counseling for her emoitional distress, but did
not corroborate this fact with affidavits or other evidence. Her only
evidence was her own testimony, which was insufficient. No concrete
emotional problems were proven.
Evidence of a sexually charged atmosphere and difficulty
advancing in the police force for reasons not directly related to sex
had been wrongly admitted in the district court. The evidence of a
sexual atmosphere pre-dated defendant's interaction with plaintiff and
was unduly prejuducial.
Petramale v. Local No. 17 of Laborers Int'l Union, 847
F.2d 1009 (2nd Cir. 1988).
Plaintiff, a union member, brought suit after he was
disciplined for disrupting a union meeting and making allegedly
slanderous comments towards union officials.
Jury awarded Petramale $200,000 in emotional damages. The
appellate court remitted the award to $100,000.
Plaintiff became moody and argumentative and had marital
problems leading to separation. Union members refused to speak to
plaintiff. Plaintiff became nervous and experience trouble sleeping.
Plaintiff's testimony regarding physical effects was open to
challenge on cross-examination and the jury was entitled to believe
him, so district court's judgment n.o.v. was reversed.
Plaintiff testified as to nerves and sleeplessness but there
was no medical testimony. Plaintiff did not seek medical help.
Unclear how much of problems were caused by illegal punishment rather
than general problems with the union.
The award was excessive given the amount of evidence.
Tanzini v. Marine Midland Bank, 978 F.Supp 70 (N.D.N.Y.
Plaintiff alleged age and disability discrimination in a
termination decision, bringing suit under the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act and the New York Human Rights Law.
The jury awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages. Appellate
court remitted to $30,000.
Plaintiff and wife's testimony provided the evidence of
distress. Plaintiff was in a state of shock and experienced memory
loss, loss of sleep, headaches, nervousness and short-temper.
Plaintiff did not produce evidence regarding duration or
magnitude of his j\injuries. He also did not provide evidence that he
sought medical or psychological care.
Federal district courts must apply New York law in determining
whether damages awards on diversity claims are excessive. Courts look
at whether the award deviated materially from what is considered
reasonable compensation. Other verdicts are used as comparison.
Binder v. Long Island Lighting Co., 57 F.3d 193 (2nd
Plaintiff alleged age discrimination under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act and the New York Human Rights Law.
Jury awarded $497,738 for emotional distress. The district
court remitted the award to $5,000.
Evidence consisted of plaintiff's testimony about inability to
support his family and his resentment about his treatment.
Overruled on other grounds, Zimmitti v. Aetna Life Ins. Co.,
1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 36173.
Carter v Rosenberg & Estis, No. 95 Civ. 10439 (S.D.N.Y.
Mar. 31, 1998)
Plaintiff sued for violation of Title VII and the New York
Human Rights Law, alleging sexual harassment and discrimination.
Jury awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages. The district
court remitted the award to $15,000.
Plaintiff gave the testimony regarding her emotional harm,
which consisted of being very upset and crying uncontrollably. She
testified that she attended treatment for a year but did not testify
regarding her emotions during therapy or its effects. Her only
phycial harms were minor (unlike drinking, blood pressure, suicidal
ideations) and often unfounded and were not proven to relate to her
termination or subsequent anguish.
Plaintiff's therapist corroborated testimony of upset, but
could not compare her condition to her state before the termination.
An expert witness also corroborated, but spoke to no one other than
plaintiff and her attorney in performing his evaluation. He was not
her treating physician but only an expert preparing for trial.
Plaintiff did not indicate magnitude, duration of serverity of
distress. The lack of detail forced the jury to speculate,
invalidating their award.
Rivera v. Baccarat, 10 F.Supp.2d 318 (S.D.N.Y. 1998)
Vacated on other grounds.
Plaintiff alleged termination because of national origin.
The jury awarded $125,000, which the court reduced to $20,000.
Plaintiff testified that she is nervous and has trouble
sleeping. She is anxious at work and had socializing problems. Her
anxiety causes stomaachaches. Her two daughters corroborated her
testimony of depression and anxiety.
Plaintiff embarked upon major acitivies soon after being fired,
including a vacation to Korea. She did not seek medical or
psychological treatment for a year. When she did see a doctor, it was
after termination from another job.
There was no humiliation, as the reasons for termination were
not published. She was also dealing with another firing and her
In a later proceeding at Rivera v. Baccarat, 34 F.Supp
2d 870 (1999), the plaintiff was awarded back pay including fringe
benefits which amounted to $104,373.
Trivedi v. Cooper, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18715 (S.D.N.Y.
Dec. 17, 1996)
Plaintiff sued for employment discrimination under §§ 1981 and
1983 based on national origin, alleging harassment, failure to promote
Jury awarded $700,000, which the district court remitted to
Plaintiff produced no evidence of cousneling, physical injury
or other actions associated with emotional distress. The only
testimony offered was statements that plaintiff was starved for
professional growth and felt indignant and unhappy
Lutnick v New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., 1995
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12346 (S.D.N.Y. 1995)
Plaintiff sued under the Federal Rehabilitation Act.
Jury awarded $36,056 without specification, which the defendant
claimed was awarded for emotional damage even though the plaintiff did
not request damages for that purpose. The court upheld the award.
Plaintiff's doctor testified to her depression and agitation
due to her inability to return to work. He also testified that she
could have been reasonably accomodated and that working would have
Plaintiff testified to her mental injury, and jury observed
her. She also testified to the "depths of her depression" by
describing suicidual ideation. She attributed her depression to her
lack of distraction from physical suffering, which work would have
Wade v. Orange County Sheriff's Office, 844 F.2d 951
(2nd Cir. 1988)
Plaintiff, a corrections officer, alleged racial employment
discrimination under §§ 1981 and 1983 as well as Title VII. He alleged
harassment as well as dsicrimination in pay and job asssignments.
The jury awarded $50,000 in emotional damages.
More than a dozen witnesses testified, and the case turned on
their credibility before the jury. A jury's credibility assessment is
entitled to deference.
Superseded by statute on the ground that Title VII does not
provide for recovery of compensatory or punitive damages. See
Natale v. Mount Sinai Medical Ctr., 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8470.
Ginsberg v. Valhalla Anasthesia Assoc., P.C., 96 Civ.
Plaintiff sued alleging pregnancy discrimination.
Jury awarded $500,000 in compensatory damages.
Plaintiff testifed that she felt the worst she had in her life
and that she sought psychiatric treatment and was prescribed
anti-depressants. She also lost her career. She was no
While plaintiff can corroborate her testimony by reference to
circumstances of misconduct and is not required to produce expert or
medical witnesses, the court must consider the absence of
corroborating evidence in assessing damages.
Since she did testify to psychiatric treatment and the jury
credited her testimony, remitted to $100,000.
New York City Transit Authority v. State Div. of Human
Rights, 181 A.D.2d 891 (N.Y. App. Div. 1992)
Employee bus driver sued employer New York City Transit
Authority (NYCTA) for acts of sex discrimination relating to
employee's pregnancy, including refusing to place her on restricted
duty during her temporary disability due to pregnancy and refusing to
restore her to full-duty after her miscarriage.
The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that the NYCTA acted
intentionally, and that such acts caused employee anguish, guilt,
depression, and anger.
Relying on the ALJ's recommendations, the Commissioner held
that the NYCTA discriminated against employee on the basis of her
pregnancy, and awarded her $450,000 in compensatory damages.
On remand, the award was found to be excessive, and the matter
was remitted to the respondent for a new award not to exceed $75,000.
The Supreme Court, Appellate Division found that there is
sufficient evidence in the record that the complainant was subjected
to repeated acts of intentional sex discrimination, and that such acts
will continue in the future, to assure that the damages for the
complainant's mental anguish was not excessive, arbitrary or punitive.
Nairn v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corps., 837 F.2d. 565 (2d
Railroad employee sued employer National Railroad Passenger
Corporation (Railroad) for work-related injury. The jury found the
Railroad negligent, and awarded employee damages in the amount of
The Railroad moved for a new trial on the issue of damages, and
the district court judge denied the motion.
Appeal was taken by the Circuit court, which held that the
award to the employee, who had 15% functional impairment and was
unable to return to employment with the railroad but had obtained
employment elsewhere was excessive, and remanded the case for a new
trial on the damages.
The Circuit court calculated that $350,000 was a reasonable
award for past and future lost earnings, but the $400,000 for pain and
suffering was not consistent with the damages awarded in other cases
involving similar injuries, even while bearing in mind the unique set
of facts and circumstances of the present case.
Shea v. Icelandair, 925 F.Supp. 1014 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)
Plaintiff employee sued employee Icelandair for demoting him
based on his age, and the jury awarded him $250,000 in damages for
pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, anguish, and
Employer moved for a new trial on the issue of damages or, in
the alternative, for remittitur and employee moved for reinstatement.
The district court held that a limited remittitur of $75,000 is
appropriate, which reduces the award to $175,000, which is the maximum
recovery that would not "deviate materially" from awards in cases with
Miner v. City of Glens Falls, 999 F.2d 655 (2d Cir.
Former police officer brough § 1983 action againt the City of
Glens Falls alleging deprivation of property interest in job without
The district court awarded police officer compensatory damages
in the amount of $12,000 for his lost wages, lost pension benefits and
emotional distress, with attorney's fees, pre-judgment interest and
costs, on the claim that employment was terminated without due
process, and appeal was taken.
The Court of Appeals held that police officer showed that
violation of constitutional right to procedural due process caused
actual injury, and affirmed the district court's award of substantial
damages because police officer proved the element of causation at the
summary judgment stage of the proceeding.
Shannon v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance, 156
F.Supp.2d 279 (S.D.N.Y. 2001)
Plaintiff alleged age discrimination in termination
decision and brought suit under the New York Human Rights Law and New
York City Human Rights Law.
Shannon was in state of shock at termination. Since
that time he experienced anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, stress
and depression, exacerbated by an unsuccessful job search that was
humiliating and caused him to lose self-esteem. Firing also caused
him to lose interest in sex and to be unable to have sex, diminished
his interest in socializing. Testimony corroborated by wife and
Jury awarded $80,000 for emotional suffering.
Defendants requested award be remitted to $25,000, arguing $80,000 was
far greater than awards in discrimination cases with more substantial
evidence of emotional suffering.
Court remitted to $40,000.
In extensive discussion of jury verdicts in
discrimination cases, court recounted that with so-called
“garden-variety” mental anguish claims (those not requiring medical
treatment,) awards hover in the range of $5,000 to $30,000. Evidence
that plaintiff sought medical or psychiatric treatment generally
entitles him to greater mental anguish and emotional distress
damages. The court listed recent N.Y. cases where courts remitted
excessive jury awards in “garden variety” emotional distress claims
under the NYHRL:
Fowler v. N.Y. Transit Auth., 2001 WL 838228 (S.D.N.Y.
2001): court remitted jury's award of $ 50,000.00 to $ 25,000.00,
where plaintiff complained of headaches, tension, emotional stress,
anxiety and vomiting to her treating physician, plaintiff's physician
prescribed Ativan to help alleviate her symptoms and recommended her
for a psychiatric consultation, and plaintiff's physician relied on
her representations regarding her condition and the source of her
Kim v. Dial Serv. Int'l, Inc., 1997 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 12544, (S.D.N.Y. 1997), aff'd, 159 F.3d 1347 (2d Cir. 1998):
reducing $ 300,000.00 award to $ 25,000.00 after applying "shock the
conscience" standard where the plaintiff testified and his wife
corroborated that he felt "gloomy," had lost weight, drank more, lost
interest in socializing, took sedatives, and had trouble sleeping
McIntosh v. Irving Trust Co., 887 F. Supp. 662 (S.D.N.Y.
1995): remitting $ 219,428.00 compensatory damage award to $ 20,000.00
where plaintiff testified that he felt humiliated, shocked, and angry,
suffered weakness in his legs, and experienced pains in his stomach
and chest, but where plaintiff "did not testify in any detail with
respect to the magnitude or the duration of any mental distress" and
"there was no evidence that the plaintiff sought any medical or
psychological help except for one visit to a doctor while he was still
Borja-Fierro v. Girozentrale Vienna Bank, 1994
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7088, (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 1994): reducing a damage
award for mental anguish suffered in connection with a retaliatory
discharge from $ 160,000.00 to $ 15,000.00 where plaintiff went to a
psychologist in part because of the discrimination by the defendant
and was the only witness to testify to his mental anguish -- the court
characterized the plaintiff's testimony as "brief" and "not
Walia v. Purmasir & Assoc., 160 F.Supp.2d 380 (E.D.N.Y.
Walia won a default judgment against defendants in suit
under the Civil Rights Act and New York Human Rights Law for sexual
In addition to inappropriate touching, Purmasir told
“other people” Walia was a whore and a slut. Though on-the-job
harassment lasted only three days, effects were longstanding and
disproportionate as result of reaction of plaintiff’s family and
community. Plaintiff testified that in her culture, the woman is
blamed for the man's conduct. This cultural acceptance of Purmasir's
lack of responsibility, coupled with his defamatory statements, were
perceived by her family and friends to have brought shame on Walia and
on her family. She suffered humiliation and was laughed at by her
former classmates, colleagues, and friends, felt she was forced to
drop out of school, and moved away from her family. She had trouble
socially with her relationships with men, and cited one example of a
boyfriend who began to abuse her when he learned of the incident.
Court recommended $30,000 in compensatory damages under
NYHRL for physical and emotional distress, plus related health care
Court noted compensatory damages in recent cases where
plaintiffs complained of similar injuries ranged from $5,000 to
See Anderson v. Yarp, 1997 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 540 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (finding $65,000 award appropriate).
Town of Lumberland v. New York State Div. of Human
Rights, 229 A.D.2d 631 (2d Dep't 1996): reducing $150,000 award
for emotional distress and humiliation to $20,000 where plaintiff
testified she was '"very, very upset,' 'humiliated,' 'embarrassed to
be seen in the town,' she 'couldn't eat,' 'cried' . . . 'a mess,"' but
did not present any other evidence of the severity and consequences of
Gleason v. Callanan Industr., Inc., 203 A.D.2d:
finding an award of $54,000 to be supported by the evidence that
plaintiff suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, pains in
her sides, insomnia, depression, mental shock, and concerns as a
single mother about her ability to support herself and her child.
New York State Dep't of Correctional Servs. v. State
Div. of Human Rights, 207 A.D.2d 586: reducing $25,000 award of
compensatory damages for mental anguish and humiliation to $10,000
where there was an absence of proof apart from plaintiff's testimony
that she felt depressed and angry, lost sleep, became involved in
arguments with her fiancé, and saw a psychiatrist five or six times in
City of Fulton v. New York State Div. of Human Rights,
221 A.D.2d 971 (4th Dep't 1995): finding $50,000 in mental anguish
damages to be excessive and awarding $10,000 where plaintiff felt
"very upset and disappointed," "bad," "lost sleep," and was "mean at
Port Washington Police Dist. v. State Div. of Human
Rights, 221 A.D.2d 640: finding award of $200,000 for compensatory
damages for mental anguish to be excessive and reducing the award to
not exceed $ 5,000.
Anderson v. Yarp Restaurant, Inc., 1997 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 560 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)
Plaintiff brought action under Civil Rights Act and New
York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment.
Harassment made plaintiff feel like “insides were eaten
out.” She was unable to get job elsewhere because she was afraid of
men, afraid if she turned her back she’d be jumped, didn’t feel safe
anymore, felt like she could not protect herself, had trouble sleeping
and occasional suicidal thoughts. Her therapist testified that
plaintiff suffered delayed emotional trauma as result of harassment.
Jury awarded $65,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000
Defendant’s motions for new trial or remittitur denied.
McIntyre v. Ford, 669 N.Y.S.2d 122 (N.Y. 1997)
Plaintiff subjected to extreme sexual harassment.
Plaintiff felt humiliated, intimidated, and insignificant, like she
was being treated as an animal rather than a person. She went to a
psychologist until she could no longer afford his fees. Psychologist
testified that work was central to her life, both financially and
emotionally, and that she was torn between the job's importance in her
life and having to cope with the behavior that she was subjected to.
This caused plaintiff to be "confused, distraught and anxiety ridden."
After her termination, she was less distraught because she was no
longer in an abusive environment. However, with regard to her future,
the doctor prophesied that plaintiff would have a difficult time
because she would be apprehensive about a reoccurrence at any new job
and would suffer from anxiety about her performance.
Jury awarded $1,600,000 compensatory and $5,000,000
punitive. Judge remitted to 650,000 for emotional pain and suffering,
$ 53,000 for lost wages and $ 3,000,000 in punitive damages.
Broome v. Biondi, 17 F.Supp.2d 211 (S.D.N.Y.
Broome’s filed claims for racial discrimination,
intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil rights
violations after their application for an apartment was rejected.
Emotional distress claim failed but jury awarded plaintiff’s $230,000
in compensatory damages for emotional injury and economic loss and
$410,000 in punitive damages on their discrimination claims.
Wife testified she felt embarrassed and humiliated by
the incident, that it was her “worst nightmare.” She was reduced to
tears during the apartment board interview and again upon learning
their application was rejected. She was afraid to tell her husband
they were rejected because she knew how much it would hurt him.
Husband testified he felt angry and demoralized, and it
was difficult for his feelings to go away. His confidence at work was
affected by fear that clients would not trust his advice after they
Portee v. Hastava, 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 27320 (2d
Portees, an interracial couple with one child, were
discriminated against in housing.
White wife testified she felt hurt for her husband,
because she thought that the situation was embarrassing to him. She
suffered at her job, could not concentrate on simple tasks, and she
was very nervous. She made many little mistakes at work. Her
co-workers confirmed that for a period of one or two months following
the incident she was not herself, was not able to perform even simple
tasks adequately. She appeared to recover fully in a working capacity
within a month or two.
Husband testified that from the moment realtor refused
to speak with him and refused to let him sign the lease, he felt "low,
like I was a low-life animal." Since then he has felt: “[a] deep
hurt, very deep hurt. He also testified to other emotional and
physical problems as a result of the discrimination, including not
wanting to go out, not wanting to be with people, feeling bad and low,
drinking to the point of harming his liver and his nerves. Wife
corroborated that he was often drunk, wouldn't talk to anybody and he
was angry all the time. He also experienced turmoil at work and in
his marriage: snapping at the people he worked with, not wanting to go
to work, yelling at his wife when they talked about the incident.
When asked if he had sought treatment for any of the problems he had
experienced, he said, "Well, I spoke to a few doctors and I checked
out a few AA's, but I haven't made them yet, but I'm planning on it."
Son was five when the events took place. He testified
that he was very happy and excited when the family was looking at the
house, because he "was finally going to get a backyard to play in".
After seeing the realtor take the key from his mother's key ring, he
was "sad" because he "wasn't going to get the basketball hoop and pool
and my own room." For a few months after the incident, when his
parents argued, he was sad and upset because he did not want them to
argue, although he had no idea what they were arguing about.
Jury awarded general compensatory damages for emotional
distress: $100,000 each to parents and $80,000 to son. Punitive
damages were also awarded.
District court found awards shocked the conscience and
ordered partial new trial on issue of compensatory damages. Jury
reduced damages to $50,000 to husband, $30,000 to wife, and $18,000 to
son. Those damages were upheld by the second circuit.
In the Matter of New York City Transit Authority v.
State Division of Human Rights, 181 A.D.2d 891 (N.Y. App. Div.
Plaintiff bus driver discriminated against on basis of
gender for period of fourteen months before, during, and after her
pregnancy. Defendants refused to put her on restricted duty during
time of her temporary disability due to pregnancy, refused to restore
her to full-duty status after her miscarriage, required her to submit
to psychiatric evaluation when she requested reinstatement to
full-time duty, and forced her, when she requested restricted duty, to
go out on unpaid leave for eight months.
Plaintiff suffered anguish, guilt, depression, and anger
at the time of each occurrence, and mental anguish persisted for more
than six years. Commissioner concluded mental anguish would continue
for rest of her life.
Commissioner awarded her $450,000 in compensatory
damages arising from the four incidents of sex discrimination.
·Award upheld because, though
high, plaintiff had been subjected to repeated acts of intentional sex
discrimination and suffered mental anguish over long period of time,
which will continue in the future.
EEOC Discrimination Suits Since March,
AMOUNT & TYPE
Pay discrimination and retaliation
Baltimore Cable Access Corp.
ADA violation for firing retarded
Chuck. E. Cheese’s
March 15, 2000
$13M jury award punitive reduced
by court to $230,000, $70,000 for emotional distress
Racial harassment and race based
Direct Marketing Services
May 5, 2000
$700,000 consent decree (to be
distributed among eleven people)
Grace Culinary Systems
June 1, 2000
$1M settlement for class of 22
London International Group
June 12, 2000
$625,000 settlement for class
Burt Chevrolet (Colorado)
August 4, 2000
$500,000 for 10 former employees
August 9, 2000
$120,000 per valet/bellman
Louisiana Car Dealership
August 16, 2000
$200,000 settlement for six
Harassment based on race, sex,
religion, and national origin
August 29, 2000
$330,000 settlement for six
Arkansas auto dealership
August 31, 2000
$160,000 settlement plus
National origin discrimination
Premier Operator Services
September 19, 2000
$50,000 compensatory and punitive
per worker, awarded by judge
Sex bias suit
October 25, 2000
$8 M settlement for class of 200
October 30, 2000
National origin bias
November 2, 2000
$2.5M settlement for class
La Cruz Azul (Blue Cross) of
December 6, 2000
December 6, 2000
$782,000 settlement for class of
December 7, 2000
$450,000 settlement for six
Race and sex bias
February 21, 2001
$1M settlement for class
April 3, 2001
$200,000 settlement for four
Sexual harassment, racial
discrimination and retaliation
April 10, 2001
$485,000 for seven individuals
English-only and national origin
University of Incarnate Word
April 20, 2001
$2.44 M settlement for four
University of Wisconsin Press
May 10, 2001
$430,000 for four individuals
Sexual harassment and retaliation
May 24, 2001
$2.6M for class
June 2, 2001
$1.2 M settlement for nine
Race and sex discrimination
July 13, 2001
$1.8 M consent decree for class
National origin bias
Solomon Smith Barney
July 16, 2001
$635,000 for thirteen individuals
Sexual harassment, national origin
bias and retaliation
Quality Art LLC
August 8, 2001
$3.5 M settlement for class
August 21, 2001
$650,000 consent decree
Sex discrimination and retaliation
September 19, 2001
$2.2 M by jury ($64,000 back
wages, $50,000 compensatory, $2.1 M punitive)
Sexual and race harassment
September 26, 2001
$1.25 M consent decree for sixteen
Race, gender, age, national origin
discrimination and harassment
October 1, 2001
$9 M consent decree for class
March 6, 2002
$1.2 M settlement for class
March 8, 2002
$47 settlement for class of over
March 27, 2002
$1.8 M settlement for 32
Beverly Hilton Hotel
$220,000 consent decree for 15
Class Racial Discrimination
The Industrial Company
$2.5 M settlement by consent
St. Louis Nursing Home
$1.2 M settlement
Applebee's International Inc.
$1.55 M (Includes $10,000 to 5
women for emotional pain and suffering and $500,000 each for 3 of
the 5 women for punitive damages)
Infliction of Emotional Distress in New York
Under New York law,
a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress requires a
showing of (1) extreme and outrageous conduct; (2) intent to cause, or
reckless disregard of a substantial probability of causing, severe
emotional distress; (3) a causal connection between the conduct and
the injury; and (4) severe emotional distress. (See Stuto
v. Fleishman, 164 F.3d 820 (2d Cir. 1999). From my brief
research, it seems most IIED claims fail, usually because the court
finds the conduct complained of not sufficiently outrageous to satisfy
the first element. (See Andrews v. Bruk, 610 N.Y.S.2d
752 (1994), acknowledging that the New York Court of Appeals had
dismissed every IIED claim presented to it thus far.) Extreme and
outrageous conduct has been defined in New York as conduct that is “so
outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all
possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and
utterly intolerable in a civilized society” (Howell v. New York
Post Co., 612 N.E.2d 699 (1993)).
Examples of conduct
considered not sufficiently outrageous include:
Defendant doctor obtained two hospital documents showing
that the plaintiff underwent vasectomy and used the documents as an
exhibit to a motion the defendant made in an action for divorce. The
documents were used to support the defendant's contention that his
wife was having an affair with the plaintiff. (Andrews v. Bruk,
220 A.D.2d 376 (N.Y. App. Div. 1995).
Attorney’s fraudulent concealment of a loan that the
attorney and client obtained by means of a forged power of attorney
used to place a mortgage on plaintiff's property (Vasilopoulos
v. Romano, 228 A.D.2d 669 (N.Y. App. Div. 1996));
Falsely accusing someone
of being anti-Semitic and biased in her treatment of Jews (Herlihy
v. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 214 A.D.2d 250 (N.Y.
App. Div. 1995))
Destroying a student's exam motivated by personal animus
toward the student (Silverman v. New York Univ. School of Law,
193 A.D.2d 411 (N.Y. App. Div 1993))
Statement by counsel to an adverse party at trial that
the latter would suffer heavily because of his lawyer's failure to
settle (Nestlerode v. Federal Ins. Co.,
66 A.D.2d 504 (N.Y. App. Div. 1979))
Communicating to plaintiffs that they would be prevented
from selling their apartment at a profit and that their life in the
building would be made miserable (Smukler v. 12 Lofts Realty,
156 A.D.2d 161 (N.Y. App. Div. 1989))
Intentionally relaying false information to a hospital
that the plaintiff, a nurse, had euthanized a patient (LaDuke
v. Lyons, 250 A.D.2d
969 (N.Y. App. Div. 1998))
Permitting crude and offensive statements of a sexually
derisive nature to occur in the workplace (Shea v. Cornell Univ.,
192 A.D.2d 857 (N.Y. App. Div. 1993))
Directing religious and ethnic slurs, including "Hebe"
and "Kike" against an employee (Leibowitz v. Bank Leumi Trust
Co., 152 A.D.2d 169 (N.Y. App. Div. 1989)).
Defendant tapped his own home telephone to intercept his
wife's calls, for his use or advantage in their matrimonial litigation
(Talmor v. Talmor, 712 N.Y.S.2d 833 (N.Y. 2000)
Defendant dumped a pile of cement on sidewalk in front
of plaintiff’s house, tossed lighted cigarettes into his backyard,
threw eggs on his front steps, and threatened once to paint a swastika
on his house. (Seltzer v. Bayer, 272 A.D.2d 263 (N.Y. App.
Where claims have
been upheld, they are generally “supported by allegations detailing a
longstanding campaign of deliberate, systematic and malicious
harassment of the plaintiff.” The following have been held to
be sufficiently outrageous or, at least, raise a question of fact for
Defendant yelled and gestured obscenely at plaintiff,
followed her home, refused to leave the premises, followed her
children and family members around and told plaintiff he knew where
the children went to school and when they get out of school (Bunker
v. Testa, 234 A.D.2d
1004 (N.Y. App. Div. 1996).
Defendant, a psychiatrist, persuaded his patient to have
a sexual relationship with him for therapeutic benefit and he made
numerous harassing telephone calls to her after she terminated the
relationship (Sanchez v. Orozco, 178 A.D.2d 391
(N.Y. App. Div. 1991))
Threatening bodily harm to seller and purchaser if a
house were sold to a "colored" purchaser (Ruiz v. Bertolotti,
37 Misc. 2d 1067 (N.Y. 1962), affd 20 A.D.2d 628 (1963))
Destroying windows of a house where a woman and children
were staying, thereby exposing them to severe cold, and threatening
her life by displaying a bullet (Weisman v. Weisman,
108 A.D.2d 853 (N.Y. App. Div. 1985))
Making false charges in a proceeding against a high
school principal and spreading false rumors that the principal had
also been involved in an affair, had used student funds for his own
benefit, and utilized associates to work on his house during school
hours, all in order to coerce his resignation (Sullivan v.
Board of Educ., 131 A.D.2d 836 (N.Y. App. Div. 1987))
Making hundreds of hang-up telephone calls (Doe
v. Esposito, 114 A.D.2d 992 (N.Y. App. Div. 1985))
Intentional misdiagnosis of HIV (Harvey v. Cramer,
235 A.D.2d 315 (N.Y. App. Div 1997)).
Pattern of harassment, intimidation, humiliation and
abuse, causing plaintiff unjustified demotions, suspensions, lost pay
and psychological harm over a period of years (Shannon v. MTA
Metro-North R.R., 269 A.D.2d 218)
Deliberately, systematically and maliciously harassing
plaintiff through various specified acts over a period of years, so as
to injure him in his capacity as a tenant (Warner v. Druckier,
266 A.D.2d 3)
Finally, even where
IIED claims are successful, damages vary widely:
Defendant found guilty of IIED for sexually touching
plaintiff, his eleven-year-old stepdaughter. Plaintiff submitted no
proof of special damages, not even costs incurred for therapy. Both
plaintiff’s and defendant’s experts agreed the abuse adversely
affected plaintiff’s capacity to engage in intimate, trusting,
satisfactory relationships, and both diagnosed her as suffering from
posttraumatic stress disorder and testified she would continue to
suffer from nightmares, fears, anxiety, dependency and difficulties in
relationships with men. Both said she had improved over time but would
probably never fully recover. Jury awarded plaintiff $200,000
compensatory and $275,000 punitive. Court reduced compensatory
damages to $100,000 in absence of proof of special damages and paucity
of proof of permanent psychological damage, noting, “the evidence
shows plaintiff was functioning fairly well eight years after the
offenses---dating, working, going to school.” Punitive damages
reduced to $100,000. (Laurie Marie M. v. Jeffrey T.M., 159
A.D.2d 52, 57 (N.Y. App. Div. 1990).
Plaintiff won IIED claim where defendants harassed him
and were alleged to have ruined his career because they blamed him for
the suicide of a fellow officer, due to his position in the health
services division, which required him to make sure that the
department's sick leave policy was not being abused. Defendants told
others to get plaintiff transferred out of Health Division “any way
you can,” even if it meant framing him, harassed plaintiff and his
wife, caused him to be involuntarily transferred, and denied him a
recommended promotion and raise. Awards for emotional distress of
$125,000 from one plaintiff and $100,000 from another were upheld. (Hughes
v. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York, 850
F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1988).
Plaintiff, a man in his mid-60’s, showed continued
pattern of harassment by landlord, which included depriving him of
essential services, like heat and electricity, for an extended period
of time in an effort to force him to vacate a low-rent apartment.
Plaintiff said harassment left him anxious and tense and he had
difficulty sleeping. Plaintiff had become obsessed with his housing
dilemma and presented an expert psychiatrist who said his condition
was similar to battle fatigue and resulted from the combat-like stress
plaintiff experienced as a result of the continued harassment.
Plaintiff also presented witnesses who indicated he had become more
nervous and tense during period of harassment. Jury awarded $50,000
compensatory and $15,000 punitive. (Clark Operating Corp. v.
Yokley, Civil Court Index 63752/82 (1983)).
Plaintiff awarded $60,000 in IIED suit where defendant
physician concealed fact that plaintiff did not have cancer and
plaintiff continued to believe for thirteen to eighteen months that he
was dying of cancer. (Howe v. Ampil, 185 A.D.2d 520, N.Y. App.
Plaintiff, a junior-ranking police officer, had
successful IIED claim where defendant, a high-ranking police precinct
commander, directed personal campaign of adverse actions designed to
silence plaintiff and punish her for complaining about harassment, and
to make work conditions intolerable enough so as to cause her to
resign from police force or malign her enough to result in
termination. Plaintiff awarded $250,000 for emotional distress and
related pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s
fees. (Gonzalez v. Police Commissioner Bratton, 147 F. Supp.
2d 180 (U.S. Dist. June 2001)).
Plaintiff awarded $312,000 in a lawsuit ($50,000 for
IIED). Plaintiff was a 17 year old freshman attending Norwich
University (D) and was subjected to brutal indoctrinations, rituals,
initiations, and hazings that were customary and routine at the
University. Plaintiff claimed he received shock to the chest caused by
two-fisted punching to the chest to knock the wind out, bloody
knuckles and wrists, being hit in the head with heavy graduation
rings, plastic hanger beatings, and other rituals. Injuries sustained
by the plaintiff included psychological injuries, including emotional
distress, humiliation, mental anguish, depression, anger, avoidance,
and intrusive behavior; torn deltoid muscle; fractured rib. (Briscoe
v. Norwich University No. 6969 (06/01/01)
Plaintiff awarded $6,600,000 (for IIED: $500,000 for
past pain and suffering; $200,000 for future pain and suffering;
$2,500,000 for punitive damages). Plaintiff was employed as a service
advisor by Defendant. She claimed that in 1991, 1992 and 1993, she was
subjected to harassment by supervisors and other employees after
rebuffing the advances of her supervisor. Plaintiff was subjected to
sexually explicit statements carved into her desk, a coworker spat in
her face and grabbed her by the throat. She endured this environment
for 2.5 years until she was fired McIntyre v. Manhattan Ford
Lincoln Mercury, Inc., No.128889/94 (06/04/97)
A right to damages for loss of consortium has not been consistently
recognized for unmarried individuals.
In 1980, the District Court for the District of New Jersey denied a
motion to dismiss a consortium claim brought by an unmarried
plaintiff. (Bulloch v. United States, 487 F. Supp. 1078
(1980)). The co-plaintiffs had been married for twenty-three years,
and had two children. They were briefly separated and then divorced,
but within three years of the divorce and before the co-plaintiff’s
injury, agreed to reconcile, to resume living together, and to
remarry. After the co-plaintiff’s injury he returned to the marital
abode, but the couple never remarried since they were advised it would
be impossible for them to consummate the marriage act. Noting, “it
seems obvious that a member of a cohabitating couple can suffer
identical damage to that suffered by a spouse when his or her mate is
injured,” (Id. at 1087) and that the New Jersey policy of
compensating the injured “would seem to outweigh the policy favoring
marriage,” (Id.) the court let the claim proceed. Subsequent
New Jersey courts declined to follow Bulloch, however. (See
Leonardis v. Morton Chemical Co., 445 A.2d 45 (App.Div. 1982),
Sykes v. Zook Enterprises, Inc., 521 A.2d 1380 (Law Div.
1987), Schroeder v. Boeing Commercial, 712 F. Supp. 39 (D.N.J.
Even after Bulloch had been expressly overruled in Leonardis,
the California Court of Appeal seized upon its reasoning to deny
summary judgment on a consortium claim against an unmarried
plaintiff. (Butcher v. Superior Court of Orange County, 139
Cal. App. 3d 58 (Cal App. 1983). There, the parties in question were
not married but had lived together “as husband and wife” for
eleven-and-a-half years prior to the accident, had two children
together, filed joint income tax returns, maintained joint bank
accounts, and considered themselves to be married. The woman had
taken the man’s last name, and he referred to her as his wife. After
proposing, “the general trend of the law has been to criticize and to
change the traditional common law view of nonmarital relations,” the
court devised a standard to use in evaluating which cohabitants might
recover for loss of consortium (Id. at 66, 70):
One standard which may be used to evaluate the cohabitation
relationship is that the relationship must be both stable and
significant. If the plaintiff can show that the relationship meets
both of these criteria, then he or she will have demonstrated the
parallel to the marital relationship which will enable the court to
find the elements of consortium and the damage to the relational
interest (Id. at 70).
Evidence of stability and significance could include duration, degree
of economic entanglement and cooperation, exclusivity of sexual
relations, and whether there is a “family” relationship with children
Butcher was expressly overruled by Elden v. Sheldon, 758
P.2d 582 (Cal. 1988):
The state’s interest in promoting the responsibilities of marriage and
the difficulty of assessing the emotional, sexual, and financial
relationship of cohabiting parties to determine whether their
arrangement was the equivalent of a marriage, reinforce our conclusion
that the trial court did not err in upholding the demurrer to the
third cause of action. We disapprove Butcher insofar as it is
contrary to our conclusion (Id. at 589-590).
Later the court added, “Our determination here is not based on a value
judgment regarding the morality of unmarried cohabitation
relationships” (Id. at 590).
New York has never recognized loss of consortium for unmarried
Doe v.County of Madera, No. Civ. F 00 6026 OWW DL
A Plaintiff mother and daughter, alleged that they were
illegally arrested and then taken to the Madera County Jail where they
were strip-searched and subjected to a visual body cavity search by a
The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the defendant
alleging violation of their civil rights under the Fourth, Eigth and
Fourteenth Amendments of the U. S. Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
1983 and 1985. The plaintiffs also made claims for emotional distress
The plaintiffs settled for a total of $300,000. In
addition to the settlement, the County of Madera agreed to change
their strip-search policies in compliance with state and federal law.
Luckett v. The City of Grand Prairie # 99-CV-1752
Luckett sued the City for denying him the right to voice
his views during public City meetings in 1999.
Plaintiff claimed that defendant violated his First and
Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution- the rights to
free speech; to peaceably assemble; to petition government for redress
of grievances; to equal protection of the laws; and to substantial due
Additionally, plaintiff included in his complaint, an
allegation under state law that the defendants intentionally inflicted
emotional distress upon him.
The lawsuit settled for $75,000.
Motevalli v. Los Angeles Unified School District
# BC 254 054 (10/18/02)
Plaintiff was an untenured art teacher who opposed the
school district's longstanding weapons search policy, speaking out at
faculty and advisory committee meetings.
Plaintiff also twice blocked random weapons search from
being conducted and encouraged her students to join her protest by
walking out of the classroom in the middle of the class period.
Plaintiff's one year contract was not renewed at the end
of the school term and she claimed that she was not rehired because
she expressed her opinions on the subject
She charged the defendant with violating her free speech
under Article 1, Sect. 2 of the California Constitution. She also
claimed emotional distress from the experience and being unable to
return to the school and her students.
The jury awarded the plaintiff $425,000 ($137,500 wage
loss and $287,500 for pain and suffering).
Patrolmen's Benevolent Ass'n v. City of New York,
310 F.3d 43 (2002)
Lawsuit alleging employment discrimination and
violations of their rights to equal protection of the laws arising out
of their race based transfers to the 70th Precinct in wake of the
beating and torture of Abner Louima.
Plaintiffs asserted violations of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Const.
Following a jury verdict, judgment was entered against
the City for discriminating against one police officer and violating
the equal protection rights of all the police officers.
The jury awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages to each
of the 24 plaintiffs for emotional distress, with the damages for nine
plaintiffs based on physical symptoms and the damages for the other
plaintiffs based on corroborating evidence. The judgment was affirmed
Sabir v. Jowett, 214 F. Supp.2d 226 (2002)
Plaintiff brought action against Defendant seeking
redress for various civil rights violations.
Plaintiff was arrested after incidents which arose from
requesting reimbursement of his bus fare because he was unable to play
at a casino due to malfunctioning machines
Altercations with personel at the casino resulted in
undercover state police officers arresting plaintiff.
Subsequently, physical altercations occured with the
police. Plaintiff testified that he was pushed to the floor and
handcuffed, his ankles were twisted, he was choked, he lost
consciousness after being choked a second time. He was eventually
taken to a hospital, where he testified to other physical altercations
Plaintiff testified that he suffered emotional injuries,
including the recurring fear he suffers. He testified that every time
he sees a police officer he is affected. He also testified that he
suffered from horrible, recurring nightmares and sleeplessness as a
result of this incident.
Based on the above the jury found pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§
1983 that plaintiff was unlawfully arrested and that excessive force
was used against him. Also. the jury found under Connecticut state
common law that defendant intentionally inflicted emotional distress
Sulkowska v. The City Of New York, 129 F.Supp 2d
Plaintiff brought action against police officer and city
under § 1983 and new York state law seeking compensatory and punitive
damages arising out of her arrest and detention
Plaintiff presented photocopy of bar's valid liquor
license prior to presenting the original and defendant thought this
was a basis for his belief that plaintiff intended to deceive or
Plaintiff was subsequently arrested, placed in
handcuffs and detained
Plaintiff alleged that she was humiliated during her
false arrest and subsequent detention, and sustained a post-traumatic
distress disorder, with accompanying symptoms of depression, anxiety,
fear, and disturbed sleep.
Plaintiff was awarded $275,000 for her emotional
injuries, including past and future pain and suffering.
Brabson v. The Friendship House of Western New York
Former employee brought Title VII action against
employer and former co-worker alleging sexual harrassment and
While plaintiff was working for defendant employer,
former co-worker on several occasions directed sexually offensive
statements, gestures and physical overtures at her, yelled profanities
at her and boasted to her about his prior violent criminal history
that included incidents of rape, sodomy and assault- and that
defendant, through its inaction in the face of the plaintiff's
repeated complaints, ratified and accepted former co-worker's conduct,
and ultimately retaliated against plaintiff by terminating her
employment after she made reports to the EEOC.
The jury found in favor of plaintiff on all claims and
assessed the following:
$46,634.75 for financial or economic harm or damages for lost and
future income, $31,875 for emotional distress and $275,000 for
Bender v. City of New York, 78 F.3d 787 (1996)
Arrestee brought civil rights action (§ 1983) against
police officers and city on claims of false arrest for disorderly
conduct and assault charges, malicious prosecution, battery, and
intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Plaintiff was riding bicycle through park where
demonstration was taking place and at some point had an altercation with
The police alleged that she was weaving her bicycle in and
out of police barricades. She was then handcuffed and placed in a police
van. Subsequently, defendant alleged that plaintiff bit him while
refusing to sit in the police van. Plaintiff was charged with disorderly
conduct and resisting arrest and felony assault for biting the officer.
Plaintiff was then taken to a detention facility and held there for 24
hours. Six months later, all charges against her were dropped.
Th jury awarded $300,7000 which was reversed and remanded
unless plaintiff accepted remittur of $150,000. (the award was
considered to be too excessive in part due to overlapping of damages