Second Circuit affirms jury verdict and $200k damage award following racially-motivated scuffle

In Wong v. Mangone, the Second Circuit recently affirmed a jury verdict in a case brought by Aaron Wong against James Mangone and upheld awards of $200,000 in damages and more than $167,000 in attorneys’ fees.  Wong (who is black) alleged that Mangone (who is white) assaulted him while hurling racially derogatory language. In particular, Wong alleged that upon approaching his vehicle, Mangone said:

I’m tired of you niggers being here. I’m tired of you niggers always here with your coke and your crack, and you throw dirty [vials] on the floor and you take your dirty condoms after you finish fucking and put them on the floor. I’m tired of this shit. You niggers don’t belong here . . . . Do you know anybody here? I bet you don’t know anybody here. Who do you know here? You niggers don’t know anybody here.

The jury found for Wong and against Mangone under 42 U.S.C. 1981, which provides a remedy “against private actors who intentionally discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.”  It was undisputed that Wong belonged to a racial minority and was seeking to vindicate his right “to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property.”  The Court found the requisite intent to discriminate on the basis of race, where “Wong and his girlfriend testified that Mangone, upon first encountering them and without provocation, directed racial epithets toward Wong and used other racially charged language to express anger at Wong’s presence in the parking lot”.