Jury Verdict for NYU on Retaliation Claim Upheld

In Abe v. New York University, No. 105985/10, 10950, 10950A, 10950B, 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 00830, 2020 WL 536162 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept., Feb. 04, 2020), the court, inter alia, upheld a jury verdict in defendant’s favor as to plaintiff’s retaliation claim.

In sum, the court found that budget cuts, rather than retaliation for an earlier settlement, was the cause of the elimination of plaintiff’s position.

The court wrote:

The jury verdict was not against the weight of the evidence. The trial record contains abundant evidence tending to show that defendants decided to eliminate plaintiff’s two part-time positions (darkroom manager and adjunct photography instructor) as part of far-reaching institution-wide budget cuts resorted to in the wake of the post–2008 global financial crisis. Plaintiff was one of seven adjuncts in his department whose positions were cut and one of two adjuncts holding administrative positions that were cut. Moreover, every one of the seven individual defendants testified that the elimination of plaintiff’s positions was not retaliatory and had nothing to do with the 2007 settlement that underpinned his retaliation claim. While there is evidence that could conceivably have supported a verdict for plaintiff, including an internal April 2009 email chain in which New York University employees discussed whether terminating plaintiff would be perceived as “retribution” for the 2007 settlement, a fair interpretation of the evidence supports the verdict that the jury rendered. Plaintiff’s contentions about alleged inaccuracies and contradictions in the testimony of the defense witnesses are unavailing, as the jury weighed the evidence and was entitled to make the credibility and fact-finding determinations it made. [Internal citations omitted.]