Judge Rules Against Wal-Mart For a New Trial in $16 Million Gender Bias Suit

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 16, 2016, a New Hampshire federal judge ruled against Wal-Mart’s request for a new trial after a fired store pharmacist won about $16.2 million in a gender discrimination case. The judge did however, request clarification from a state court on the company's request to limit enhanced compensatory damages to $15 million and reduce the front-pay award.

The Gender Bias Lawsuit.

In January 2016, a jury initially awarded former Wal-Mart pharmacist Maureen McPadden $31 million, an amount later cut nearly in half, in her suit alleging gender bias, wrongful termination and improperly shared personal medical information.  The retail giant urged the court to grant it a new trial, saying the jury’s $15 million enhanced compensatory damages award was far too high.

For more information on the original lawsuit, click here to read my prior blog.

A Close Call.

Despite Wal-Mart’s request, U.S. District Judge Steven J. McAuliffe said McPadden presented enough evidence for a reasonable jury to find that she was wrongfully terminated, denying the motion for judgment and the motion for a new trial.

“Having reviewed the trial transcripts, as well as the arguments advanced by the parties, the court concludes that there was sufficient evidence — though a close call — to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that Wal-Mart’s decision to terminate McPadden’s employment was the product of unlawful gender-based discrimination,” Judge McAuliffe said.

Judge McAuliffe also denied the motion to remit $300,000 in punitive damages and $15 million in enhanced compensatory damages. He is however, allowing Wal-Mart to ask again after the court gets clarification from the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The order denied a motion to remit the jury’s award of $500,000 in compensatory damages.

Judge McAuliffe’s order also cut the amount of front pay Wal-Mart is required to pay McPadden from more than $558,000 to $111,591. That figure represents three years of front pay which is “more than adequate time” given McPadden’s probability of getting new work, according to the judge.

After the questions to the New Hampshire Supreme Court regarding the punitive damages and enhanced compensatory damages have been answered, Wal-Mart can submit a renewed motion to remit the jury’s punitive damages award. The clarification from the state court will either remit the award — which was already lowered to $300,000 — or raise new arguments about the enhanced compensatory damages worth $15 million, the judge wrote. To read more on this lawsuit against Wal-Mart, click here.
To read the order on motion for judgement as a matter of law in full, click here.

The case is Maureen McPadden v Wal-Mart Stores East LP et al, case number 1:14-cv-00475, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

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Daniels, Melissa. “Wal-Mart Loses New Trial Bid In $16M Gender Bias Suit.” Law360. (September 16, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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