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Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. v. Zeltwanger

Supreme Court of Texas

February 5, 2003, Argued ; August 27, 2004, Delivered

NO. 02-0120

Opinion

 [*441]  We must decide whether a plaintiff can recover damages on a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress when the Legislature has created a statutory right to seek emotional damages for the same actions that form the basis of the intentional-infliction claim. The court of appeals concluded that the plaintiff could recover damages under both claims, electing mental anguish and punitive damages under her intentional-infliction claim while taking other compensatory damages and attorney's fees under her sexual harassment claim. 69 S.W.3d 634. We conclude that ] when the gravamen of the plaintiff's complaint is for sexual harassment, the plaintiff [**2]  must proceed solely under a statutory claim unless there are additional facts, unrelated to sexual harassment, to support an independent tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. We therefore reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand the cause to the trial court for rendition of judgment consistent with this opinion.

Joan Zeltwanger 1 sued her former employer, Hoffmann La-Roche, Inc. ("Roche"), for sexual harassment under Texas Labor Code section 21.051, retaliation under Texas Labor Code section 21.055, and intentional infliction of emotional  [*442]  distress. 2 Zeltwanger also sued Jim Webber, her supervisor at Roche, for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

 [**3]  Except for the retaliation claim, Zeltwanger prevailed at trial on all of her claims against Roche and Webber. Against Webber, who is not a party to this appeal, she obtained a judgment in the amount of $ 50,160 for intentional infliction of emotional distress. On her sexual harassment claim against Roche, the jury awarded Zeltwanger $ 835,963 for front and back pay, $ 500,000 in compensatory damages, and an additional $ 8,000,000 in punitive damages. On the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against Roche, the jury awarded $ 1,000,000 for mental anguish, $ 73,000 for past and future medical care, and another $ 8,000,000 in punitive damages.

Acknowledging potential double recovery and applicable statutory cap 3 considerations with respect to the $ 500,000 in compensatory and the $ 8,000,000 in punitive damages of the harassment award, Zeltwanger moved to limit her harassment damages to front and back pay and attorney's fees while taking her mental anguish and punitive damages under her intentional-infliction claim. The trial court therefore rendered judgment awarding Zeltwanger $ 847,036 on her harassment claim, comprising front and back pay adjusted for disability [**4]  payments and interest. Judgment on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against Roche, which at that time was not subject to a statutory cap, 4 amounted to $ 9,504,706, adjusted for interest. The court of appeals affirmed these awards, and Roche appeals only the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.

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144 S.W.3d 438 *; 2004 Tex. LEXIS 733 **; 47 Tex. Sup. J. 981; 94 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 683; 21 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 1266

HOFFMANN-LA ROCHE INC., A/K/A "ROCHE," PETITIONER v. JOAN ZELTWANGER, A/K/A JOAN GONZALES, RESPONDENT

Prior History:  [**1]  ON PETITION FOR REVIEW FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRTEENTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS.

Hoffmann La Roche, Inc. v. Zeltwanger, 69 S.W.3d 634, 2002 Tex. App. LEXIS 231 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi, 2002)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual harassment, intentional-infliction, damages, outrageous, emotional distress, mental anguish, employees, gap-filler, sexual, sexual harassment claim, outrageous conduct, punitive damages, jokes, workplace, Rights, verbal, front, court of appeals, limitations, harassment, hair, cap, compensatory damages, cause of action, recover damages, trial court, field trip, backpay, intolerable

Civil Procedure, Remedies, Damages, Punitive Damages, Labor & Employment Law, Compensatory Damages, Torts, Intentional Torts, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Remedies, Sexual Harassment, General Overview, Costs & Attorney Fees, Types of Damages, Punitive Damages, Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, Federal & State Interrelationships, Actionable Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Harassment, Religious Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, Quid Pro Quo, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, Exhaustion of Remedies, Justiciability, Exhaustion of Remedies, Administrative Remedies, Civil Rights Law, Procedural Matters, Federal Versus State Law, Exhaustion Doctrine, Governments, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Title VII Discrimination, Amendments, Jury Trials, Right to Jury Trial, Actions in Equity, Contractual Relations & Housing, Equal Rights Under the Law (sec. 1981), Proof of Discrimination, Gender & Sex Discrimination, Employment Practices, Sexual Harassment, Backpay, Pain & Suffering, Emotional Distress, Award Calculations, Availability, Employers, Statute of Limitations, Measurement of Damages, Statutory Requirements, Legislation, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Elements, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review