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Back-to-Back Federal Jury Verdicts

July 2, 2021 Employment law

Stembridge Taylor experienced the GA U.S. District Court’s return to “normal” operations first-hand this summer by preparing for, trying, and winning two jury trials spaced only two weeks apart. Within 4 weeks, our two-lawyer firm landed back-to-back federal jury victories for two well-deserving clients. Both cases had been highly litigious through both EEOC and federal court proceedings since 2018.

Jury trial in the US District Court Northern District of GA – Rome Division May 17-May 20, 2021: 

Melanie Johnston brought sexual harassment claims against her former employer, the car dealership Pye Cars of Dalton, citing extensive and crude sexual advances by a car salesman. During the trial, attorneys Lisa Taylor and John Stembridge dove into the specifics of the harassment and the dealership’s knowledge yet complete dismissal of the hostile work environment. After four days of testimony and a few hours of deliberations, the jury found in favor of Ms. Johnston and awarded her $400,000: $50,000 in compensatory damages, $250,000 in punitive damages, and $50,000 for each state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention. Due to statutory caps, Ms. Johnston’s award was reduced to $150,000.00 but the jury’s message to the dealership was clear: treat your employees better.

Jury trial in the US District Court Northern District of GA – Atlanta Division June 7-June 11, 2021:

Crystal Lamb, a 20-year special education teacher, brought disability discrimination and retaliation claims against her former employer Clayton County School District for terminating her employment after refusing to accommodate her disability. Despite receiving medical documentation for five months straight showing Ms. Lamb’s ability to perform all essential functions of her job, Clayton County told Ms. Lamb that if she could not work without restrictions or accommodations, her only choices were to retire or resign. After five days of testimony, the jury deliberated for about seven hours and found against the Clayton County School District. Ms. Lamb was awarded $200,000 for each claim of disparate treatment and failure to accommodate, and $50,000 for her retaliation claim. In addition to her $450,000 award [capped at $300,000], Ms. Lamb’s back-wages for the period during which the school refused to let her return to work are to be determined by presiding Magistrate Judge Justin Anand.

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