Bus driver with health issues repeatedly misses work, is fired. $1.9 million. Los Angeles County.
Bus driver with chronic health conditions is fired for repeated absences, but he claims that he is disabled and L.A. Metro failed to make reasonable accommodations. Offer of $100,000 before trial, but jury says $1.9 million.
- Case Name: Raphael Vasquez v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court - Stanley Mosk / BC484335
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
- Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, May 08, 2012
- Type of Case: Employment, Wrongful Termination
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Kevin C. Brazile
Plaintiffs: Raphael Vasquez, 64, bus driver
Defendants: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $1,904,635
Past lost wages and benefits: $84,348
Future lost wages and benefits: $385,287
Future medical expenses: $185,000
Past emotional distress: $1,000,000
Future emotional distress: $250,000
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 9 days
- Jury Deliberation Time: 3 1/2 hours
- Jury Polls: 12-0 on Plaintiff's retaliation claim, 11-1 on Plaintiff's five other claims
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff will seek attorney fees under FEHA, costs and penalties for rejection of a 998 offer.
Attorney for the Plaintiff: Cummings & Franck, P.C. by Scott Cummings and Lee Franck, Gardena.
Attorney for the Defendant: Guiterrez, Preciado & House, LLP by Calvin House and Caroline Shahinian, Pasadena.
Plaintiff’s Medical Experts: Franklin Milgrim, M.D., psychiatry, Beverly Hills.Craig Snyder, Ph.D., psychology, Beverly Hills.Steven Mittleman, M.D., internist, Culver City.Soma Agarwal, M.D., ophthalmology, Baldwin Park.
Defendant's Medical Experts: None.
Plaintiff's Technical Experts: Jennie McNulty, economist, Los Angeles.Regina Romeo, human resources expert, Long Beach.
Defendant's Technical Experts: None.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
Plaintiff had been a bus driver for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority ("Metro"). He was hired part time in October 2007, moved to full time November 2010 and was terminated in January of 2011.
Plaintiff had a variety of disabilities, including gout, diabetes, cataracts and a hip condition, which required him to miss certain days of work.
Metro fired plaintiff based on its attendance policy as plaintiff incurred too many chargeable absences. Nearly all the absences were based on plaintiff's disabilities and plaintiff was eligible for CFRA/FMLA for half the absences as well.
That he was wrongfully fired based on his disabilities, that Metro failed to accommodate him, that Metro failed to engage in an interactive process with him and that he was denied CFRA/FMLA that he was entitled to.
That plaintiff was fired for incurring eight chargeable absences under the attendance policy, which results in a termination; that plaintiff did not request an accommodation, interactive process or CFRA/FMLA when he was entitled; and that the decision makers did not know that plaintiff was disabled.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Plaintiff was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and a generalized anxiety disorder stemming from the firing.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: None
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $185,000
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $84,348
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $385,287
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $600,000
- Defendant §998 Offer: None.
- Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $100,000
Plaintiff testified that getting fired forced him to stop paying for his son's college and his son had to drop out and stop playing college baseball.
Plaintff, his wife and his son testified about the change in the plaintiff where he became very standoffish and distant, whereas he had been happy and joyous before. Plaintiff also testified that it was very hard to get another job, and after 1 1/2 years all he could get was a part-time job making half as much. He had to file bankruptcy and move out of his house due to the firing.