Mark Whitney was recently quoted in an article appearing in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly concerning important factors in employment law leading to a recent trend in substantially larger verdicts. The article is titled: "#MeToo, Voir Dire Seen as Part of Big-Verdict Bonanza."
The article starts by reviewing the uptick in huge jury verdicts in employment discrimination cases, including a recent $28 Million verdict won by a Haitian-American nurse against Brigham & Women's Hospital and 8 other 7-figure verdicts obtained in the last 12-18 months in Massachusetts courts. Mark was one of several Boston-area lawyers interviewed for the article to examine what lawyers on the front lines of employment law see as the reasons for the trend.
The article discussed the recent advent of lawyer-conducted voir dire of potential jurors, which lawyers believe provides valuable insight into how jurors think about awarding emotional distress and punitive damages. Mark described two additional factors he observed as supporting the recent trend in larger verdicts. First, he has observed a newfound empowerment that he has observed employees feel as a result of the #MeToo movement. Second, Mark has encountered a universe of people who may later become defendants in employment lawsuits by “following the President’s lead,” thinking they don’t have to be “PC” anymore and instead can be brash and obnoxious in the workplace.
The article also discussed the apparent increased willingness of jurors to award large emotional distress damages awards in situations that are not supported by substantial medical documentation, as well as the recent decrease in discrimination claim filings at state and federal agencies. Mark attributed the latter to the strong economy, but also predicted an explosion of claims when the economy inevitably dips.
Click here to read the full article on-line (subscription required).