SW Legal studies in Business

Verdict Overturned Due to Misconduct by Counsel and Judge at Trial
Description Appeals court overturned a verdict for more than $20 million against an employer for sexual orientation discrimination against an employee. The employee's counsel made inflammatory statements about the defendant and was allowed to introduce improper testimony at trial. The damages bear no rational relationship to the alleged injury.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Misconduct; Judicial Error; Excessive Damages; New Trial
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Minichiello was hired as a manager of the Supper Club, where he worked for three years until he was fired. He sued, contending that while he worked at the Club he was subjected to humiliation and discrimination because of his sexual orientation. The jury awarded him over $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Defendant appealed.
Decision

Reversed and remanded. Plaintiff's counsel referred to Minichiello's boss as a German with an "attitude of hatred" and made analogies to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He also asserted that the Club discriminated against Latinos, Jews, and African-Americans. The purpose of the comments was to incite the jury's passions; there was no testimony presented relevant to the issue at hand. The judge committed judicial error by allowing such comments and allowing testimony not relevant to the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation. The award was also grossly excessive and has no rational basis.

Citation Minichiello v. Supper Club, 745 N.Y.S.2d 24 (App. Div., N.Y., 2002)

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