Court Remits $2.5 Million Emotional Distress Jury Award to $125,000 in Discrimination Case

In Saber v. New York State Department of Financial Services, 15-cv-5944, 2018 WL 3491695 (S.D.N.Y. July 20, 2018), the court held that the jury’s $2.5 million verdict was excessive, and held that $125k was more appropriate.

The court summarized the evidence of emotional distress as follows:

At the trial, Plaintiff testified that he felt “extremely uncomfortable … because people turn and stare at you” in response to Logan’s “yellow cake” comment and that he felt “very, very much offended,” “very angry,” and “also upset and concerned” in response to Gollop’s “waterboarding” comment. Plaintiff described feeling “that I am always the target … And when you go to work, you absolutely do not know what can set off something very negative and uncomfortable,” leaving him feeling “very insecure about the future and very isolated, and looking over the shoulder constantly.” He also testified that he was sleeping less and at times felt humiliated and embarrassed. Plaintiff’s wife similarly testified that Plaintiff “has become more reserved and … doesn’t like to engage with people that much, and kind of upset” and that Plaintiff “cannot sleep good and cannot sleep long,” “is very distracted” and that he listens to music a lot “to get peace with music, like holding himself.” Plaintiff has not sought treatment for any physical or mental conditions associated with the injuries he alleges were attributable to the actions of DFS that form the basis of this lawsuit.

After distinguishing cases, relied upon by plaintiff, where the court affirmed higher awards, the court concluded:

In contrast, here, the only evidence supporting Plaintiff’s emotional distress is his own testimony and that of his wife. The testimony of both witnesses was general—that Plaintiff was “embarrassed,” “humiliated,” “very uncomfortable.” None of Plaintiff’s coworkers took the stand to testify as to Plaintiff’s alleged change in behavior or deterioration in lifestyle. After considering Plaintiff’s case and the statutory cap of $300,000, the Court finds that the maximum amount that Plaintiff could recover is $125,000. If Plaintiff does not accept the damages award in the remitted amount, the Court will vacate the award and conduct a new trial limited to the question of damages.