Monday, May 3, 2010

Federal Middle District Court Judge Caputo Reviews Value of Emotional Distress Claims

In the recent case of Dee v. Borough of Dunmore, Slip Copy, 2010 WL 1626908 (M.D.Pa. April 21, 2010 Caputo, J.), U.S. Federal District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo of the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted a defendant's motion to reduce a plaintiff's emotional damages award and found that the plaintiff, who had no "long-lasting effects" from a brief period of emotional trauma is not entitled to anything more than $50,000 in compensation for that injury.

The case stemmed from a suit by a plaintiff who alleged that he was improperly suspended without any hearing from his post as an assistant fire chief when borough officials allegedly incorrectly concluded that the plaintiff lacked the necessary qualifications for the position.

Judge Caputo noted that the evidence showed that the plaintiff suffered emotional distress and an elevated blood pressure "for at least a few days" following the suspension.

The judge reviewed other similar emotional distress cases and noted that, where there is some emotional distress without lasting effects established in the case, the average award allowed by the courts was approximately in the range of $50,000.

Turning back to the facts of the Dee case, Judge Caputo found that the jury's award of $150,000 was "shocking to the judicial conscience," particularly where there was no evidence that the plaintiff changed in any lasting way, where it was confirmed that the plaintiff's blood pressure returned to a normal range within a few days, and where the plaintiff was allowed to continue with his employment with the fire department after only nine (9) days on suspension.

In addition to the Westlaw citation above, a copy of this case can be secured, for a small fee, by contacting the Pennsylvania Law Weekly's Instant Case Service at 1-800-276-7427 and giving them the PICS Case No. 10-1762.

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