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Hodges v. S. C. Toof & Co.

Supreme Court of Tennessee, At Memphis

April 20, 1992, Filed

S/C No. 12

Opinion

 [*898] OPINION

In this retaliatory discharge action, Plaintiff-Appellant Carl E. Hodges alleges Defendant-Appellee S. C. Toof & Company terminated Plaintiff's employment because of his jury service. At trial, the Jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff and awarded him $ 200,000.00 compensatory and $ 375,000.00 punitive damages. The Court of Appeals, while upholding the jury's finding of retaliatory discharge, vacated the award of compensatory and punitive damages holding that under T.C.A. § 22-4-108, the exclusive remedy for an employee's discharge because of jury service was reinstatement and lost wages. We granted Plaintiff's application for permission to appeal in order to (1) decide whether the remedy provided by T.C.A. § 22-4-108 is exclusive and (2) reexamine  [**2]  the manner in which punitive damages are awarded in Tennessee.

Plaintiff Carl Hodges had been continuously employed by Defendant S. C. Toof & Company for some 19 years prior to his termination in January 1988. At the time of his firing, Plaintiff's position was that of assistant warehouse supervisor in Defendant's printing business. During his tenure, Plaintiff received 20 merit raises and had never been disciplined. In the summer of 1987 Plaintiff was called for jury service and sat as a juror in a three- month trial from mid-September to December 18, 1987. In early January 1988, Plaintiff was fired.

It is well established that ] when reviewing a judgment based on a jury verdict, appellate courts are limited to determining whether there is material evidence to support the verdict. Electric Power Bd. v. St. Joseph Valley Structural Steel Corp., 691 S.W.2d 522, 526 (Tenn. 1985); Crabtree Masonry Co. v. C & R Constr., Inc., 575 S.W.2d 4, 5 (Tenn. 1978). At trial, Plaintiff claimed he was discharged because of his lengthy jury service; Defendant claimed Plaintiff was discharged because of disobedience. The jury found Plaintiff was terminated because [**3]  of his jury service. There being material evidence in the record supporting this verdict, it will not be disturbed on appeal.

In 1986 the Legislature amended T.C.A. § 22-4-108 by adding a new subsection providing:

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833 S.W.2d 896 *; 1992 Tenn. LEXIS 312 **; 60 U.S.L.W. 2679; 7 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 650; 123 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P57,150

CARL E. HODGES, Plaintiff-Appellant, V. S. C. TOOF & COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

Subsequent History: Petition to Rehear Denied May 26, 1992, Reported at 1992 Tenn. LEXIS 362.

Prior History:  [**1]  LAW COURT. SHELBY COUNTY. Hon. Robert L. Childers, Judge.

Disposition: COURT OF APPEALS REVERSED. TRIAL COURT AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED IN PART, AND CASE REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

punitive damages, retaliatory discharge, statutory remedy, public policy, damages, cases, courts, compensatory, malicious, award of punitive damages, discharged, terminated, gross negligence, punitive award, jury service, reinstatement, obligations, misconduct

Civil Procedure, Standards of Review, Substantial Evidence, General Overview, Labor & Employment Law, Wrongful Termination, Remedies, Governments, Legislation, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Wrongful Termination, Employment Relationships, At Will Employment, Duration of Employment, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Coverage, Actions Against Employers, Retaliatory Discharge Actions, Public Policy, Damages, Compensatory Damages, Exceptions, Tort Exceptions, Public Policy Violations, Reinstatement, Punitive Damages, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Cruel & Unusual Punishment, Torts, Punitive Damages, Measurement of Damages, Constitutional Requirements, Commercial Law (UCC), Application & Construction, Damages, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Types of Damages, Aggravating Circumstances, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Clear & Convincing Proof, Inferences & Presumptions, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, Judicial Officers, Judges, Judicial Review, Costs & Attorney Fees, Costs