Mechanic sues after he is told that boss referred to him by using the "N" word. $176K. Orange County.


Mechanic sues boss for racial discrimination and many other causes of action.

The Case

  • Case Name: Barry Ware v. JKM Equipment, Inc., et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Orange County Superior Court / 30-2015-00827210-CU-WT-CJC
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, October 24, 2017
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, December 28, 2015
  • Type of Case: Discrimination, ADA, Discrimination, Racial, Employment, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Nathan Scott
  • Plaintiffs:
    Barry Ware
  • Defendants:
    JKM Equipment, Inc.
    John K. Mitzel
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $176,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $176,000 jointly and severally.

    The jury found in favor of plaintiff on his racial harassment cause of action. However, the jury found in favor of defendants on the race discrimination, disability discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress causes of action. The jury further found that the plaintiff was an independent contractor, not an employee.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None
  • Economic Damages:


  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Punitive Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 9/18/2017 to 10/24/2017
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days for compensatory damages and 1/2 day for punitive damages.
  • Jury Polls: 9-3
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for attorneys' fees pending.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Lyon Law PC by Geoffrey C. Lyon and Christopher Garcia, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Madrid Law Firm, A Professional Law Corp by Eduardo M. Madrid and Erica L. Madrid, Chino.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Jeffrey Gates, M.D., orthopedics, Riverside.

    Hung Le, M.D., psychiatry, Corona.

    Sharon Tanghal, LCSW, counseling, Chino.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Steven Graboff, M.D.,orthopedics, Huntington Beach.

    Nadim Karim, Ph.D., psychology, Los Angeles.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Timothy Lanning, economics, Santa Ana.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Venita McMorris, economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendants, a heavy equipment rental company, hired plaintiff, a mechanic, to perform maintenance on their earth moving machines that were leased out to a general contractor.

    Plaintiff brought this employment action claiming racial and disability discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, constructive termination, failure to determine and make reasonable accommodation for disability, improper classification as an independent contractor, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and invasion of privacy: a total of 15 causes of action.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That plaintiff was hired as an employee and misclassified as an independent contractor.

    After he walked off the job, plaintiff asserted that many of the conversations, text messages and emails between him and defendants were racially offensive and rose to the level of creating a hostile work environment.

    Also, that plaintiff was injured on the job.

    Plaintiff sued defendant for racial harassment, racial discrimination, disability discrimination, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Improper Classification as an Independent Contractor.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant contended that plaintiff was hired as an independent contractor.

    Defendant company owner, who is Caucasian, and plaintiff, who is African-American, developed a friendship. They laughed, joked and shared stories about themselves. Defendant would text and email jokes that he believed would be found humorous by plaintiff. Defendant never knew there was a problem and plaintiff never complained to defendant about any of the subject matter.

    An operator of the general contractor started a false rumor that defendant referred to the plaintiff with the “N” word. When plaintiff heard the rumor, he became very angry, felt betrayed and walked off the job.

    Additionally, plaintiff attempted to blame defendants for exacerbation of an alleged knee injury that did not occur on the job.


Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Aggravation of knee injury. 

  • Emotional distress.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $190,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $1,500,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: At the outset, plaintiff’s attorneys demanded $5.9 Million. At the MSC, plaintiff reduced his demand to $4.5 Million.
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: At a bifurcated trial, plaintiff asked the jury to award between $600,000 and $700,000, in compensatory damages and between $640,000 and $1.12 million in punitive damages.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: Defendants offered zero.
  • Defendant Offer during Trial: Defendants asked the jury to award zero damages.