Customer service rep takes doctor-approved leave of absence for panic attacks; defendant says she abandoned her job and fires her. $750,000 offered before closing arguments. $21.8 million award.
- Case Name: April Rodriguez v. Valley Vista Services Inc. and Zerep Management Corp.
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court, Central/ BC473793
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, February 14, 2013
- Date Action was Filed: Friday, November 18, 2011
- Type of Case: Employment, Wrongful Termination
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Susan Bryant-Deason
Plaintiffs: April Rodriguez, 32, customer service representative
Defendants: Valley Vista Services, Inc.Zerep Management Corp.
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $21,798,446
- Net Verdict or Award: $21,798,446
Award as to each Defendant:
Punitives - Valley Vista: $7,570,261; Zerep: $9,000,000
Valley Vista: $7,570,261
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 26 days
- Jury Deliberation Time: 3 days for initial phase, 1 day for punitive phase
- Jury Polls: 11-1 for initial phase, 11-1 for punitive phase
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees
Attorney for the Plaintiff: Shegerian & Associates by Carney R. Shegerian, Santa Monica
Attorney for the Defendant: Wilson Elser et al LLP by Steven Joffe, Los Angeles
Plaintiff’s Medical Experts: Dr. Warren Procci, M.D., Ph.D., forensic psychiatrist, PasadenaDr. Anthony Reading, Ph.D., forensic psychologist, Beverly Hills
Defendant's Medical Experts: Dr. David N. Glaser, M.D., forensic psychiatrist, Encino
Plaintiff's Technical Experts: Dr. Tamorah Hunt, Ph.D., forensic economist, Santa Ana
Defendant's Technical Experts: Richard B. Danehy, J.D., human resources expert, Santa BarbaraConstantine M. Boukidis, M.A., forensic economist, Los Angeles
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
In May 2004, plaintiff April Rodriguez was hired as a customer service representative by Valley Vista Services, a City of Industry-based waste disposal company.
In December 2010, plaintiff requested a leave of absence and other accommodations because she was suffering from panic attacks. Her doctor placed her on a leave of absence. Plaintiff was terminated from employment in January 2011, allegedly due to job abandonment.
Rodriguez sued Valley Vista Services Inc., and its parent company, Zerep Management Corporation. Plaintiff brought causes of action for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process, retaliation and wrongful termination.
That Valley Vista Services failed to communicate with plaintiff after her leave of absence. That her claim of disability was met with skepticism by her supervisor and she was fired as a result of her request for a leave of absence.
That she had not abandoned her job; that in the period before she was fired, a period in which she had not been cleared by her doctor for return to work, plaintiff attempted to reach her supervisor almost daily and her attempts at communication were ignored.
Plaintiff contended that there was a pattern of abuse by defendants directed at employees who tried to take time off for disability or medical leave.
That plaintiff was terminated due to job abandonment.
Injuries and Other Damages
Extreme financial hardship. resulting in major depressive disorder due to her termination and discrimination. Her former husband, who was also employed by Valley Vista, did not contribute any spousal support or assist in raising her four children. Plaintiff sought $269,463 in compensatory economic damages, in addition to past and future noneconomic damages.
Demands and Offers
- Defendant Offer during Trial: $750,000 on the eve of closing arguments per plaintiff's counsel.