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Roby v. McKesson Corp.

Supreme Court of California

November 30, 2009, Filed

S149752

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

In a wrongful discharge case, the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, ordered the trial court to enter judgment in favor of defendant supervisor, reduced the compensatory damages award against defendant employer from $ 2,805,000 to $ 1,405,000, reduced the punitive damages award against the employer from $ 15 million to $ 2 million, and affirmed the judgment as modified. Plaintiff former employee petitioned for review.

Overview

The instant court concluded that the appellate court erred in allocating plaintiff's evidence between her harassment claim and her discrimination claim, and also erred, based on that allocation, in finding insufficient evidence supported the harassment verdict. The evidence was ample to support the harassment verdict. The evidence included not only the supervisor's rude comments and behavior, but also the supervisor's shunning of plaintiff during staff meetings, the supervisor's belittling of plaintiff's job, and the supervisor's reprimands of plaintiff in front of plaintiff's coworkers. This evidence was sufficient to allow the jury to conclude that the hostility was pervasive and effectively changed the conditions of plaintiff's employment. The award of punitive damages against the employer exceeded the amount permitted under the U.S. Constitution. A one-to-one ratio between compensatory and punitive damages was the federal constitutional limit in this case. In particular, the instant court noted the relatively low degree of reprehensibility on the part of the employer and the substantial compensatory damages verdict, which included a substantial award of noneconomic damages.

Outcome

The appellate court's judgment was reversed, and the matter was remanded to that court with directions to: (1) reinstate a single harassment award of $ 500,000 against both the employer and supervisor; (2) reinstate the jury's $ 3,000 punitive damages award against the supervisor; and (3) to modify the punitive damages award against the employer to $ 1,905,000.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Civil Procedure > Judgments > General Overview

Civil Procedure > Appeals > Standards of Review > General Overview

HN1 In summarizing the facts, an appellate court views the evidence in favor of the judgment.

 

Civil Procedure > Remedies > Damages > Compensatory Damages

Civil Procedure > ... > Jury Trials > Verdicts > General Overview

HN2  Compensatory Damages

Regardless of the nature or number of legal theories advanced by the plaintiff, he or she is not entitled to more than a single recovery for each distinct item of compensable damage supported by the evidence. Double or duplicative recovery for the same items of damage amounts to overcompensation and is therefore prohibited. In contrast, where separate items of compensable damage are shown by distinct and independent evidence, the plaintiff is entitled to recover the entire amount of his or her damages, whether that amount is expressed by the jury in a single verdict or multiple verdicts referring to different claims or legal theories.

 

Torts > General Overview

Labor & Employment Law > Wrongful Termination > Public Policy

HN3 The central assertion of a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy is that the employer's motives for terminating the employee are so contrary to fundamental norms that the termination inflicted an injury sounding in tort.

 

Civil Procedure > ... > Jury Trials > Verdicts > General Overview

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47 Cal. 4th 686 ; 219 P.3d 749 ; 101 Cal. Rptr. 3d 773 ; 2009 Cal. LEXIS 12374 ; 22 Am. Disabilities Cas. (BNA) 1041

CHARLENE J. ROBY, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. McKESSON CORPORATION et al., Defendants and Appellants.

Subsequent History: Reported at Roby (Charlene J.) v. McKesson Corporation, 2009 Cal. LEXIS 12397 (Cal., Nov. 30, 2009)

Time for Granting or Denying Rehearing Extended Roby (Charlene J.) v. McKesson HBOC, 2009 Cal. LEXIS 12852 (Cal., Dec. 11, 2009)

Modified by Roby v. McKesson Corp., 2010 Cal. LEXIS 875 (Cal., Feb. 10, 2010)

Prior History:  [1] Superior Court of Yolo County, No. CV01573, Timothy L. Fall, Judge. Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, Nos. C047617, C048799.

Roby v. McKesson Corp., 146 Cal. App. 4th 63, 53 Cal. Rptr. 3d 558, 2006 Cal. App. LEXIS 2052 (Cal. App. 3d Dist., 2006)