South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Jury Verdict for Harassment Victim to Be Overturned if Supporting Evidence Absent
Description Appeals court held that a trial judge was wrong to set aside a jury’s verdict of $242,000 damages in a sexual harassment case and instead grant $10,000 in damages. A verdict is to be overturned only if there was no evidence to support the verdict or the amount shocks the conscience of the court.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Sexual Harassment; Retaliation; Damages
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Eich worked for Central Missouri State University’s (CMSU) police department. She sued, claiming that she suffered a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment by two co-workers and that SMSU unlawfully retaliated against her for complaining about the harassment. A jury found in her favor on the harassment claim and awarded $200,000 in non-economic damages and $42,272 in economic damages. They also found in her favor on the retaliation claim, but awarded no damages. The judge set aside the judgment and awarded Eich $10,000 damages. She appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The matter was properly heard by the jury; its determination should stand. Eich presented substantial evidence of improper sexual touching, acts, and innuendo that continued over a period of years. A verdict is to be overturned only when there is a complete absence of probative facts to support the conclusion reached. The measure of damages by the jury was not excessive given the employee’s testimony. A district court should reduce damages only when the verdict is so grossly excessive as to shock the conscience of the court.

Citation Board of Regents for Central Missouri State Univ. v. Eich, 350 F.3d 752 (8th Cir., 2004)

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