An Ohio jury recently awarded the largest verdict in Ohio history — $46.7 million — to a man who they said was wrongfully fired last year. This is the largest employment verdict I have seen, possibly ever.
Ronald Luri, 55, accused Republic Services Inc. of retaliation and of forging documents critical of his job performance after he refused to fire three of his employees — all about 60 years old — on the grounds that such actions would constitute age-discrimination.
The jury awarded Luri $3.5 million as compensation for his lost wages as general manager of Republic’s Cleveland division, and $43.1 million in punitive damages as punishment for the company’s treatment of Luri.
The jury also ordered Republic to pay Luri’s attorneys’ fees, which could run into the millions of dollars and will be determined by Judge Bridget McCafferty.
Several of the jurors said they were especially dismayed by testimony of evidence-tampering and actions taken by Luri’s superiors to prevent him from obtaining new employment in the Cleveland area after his firing.
Even after Luri was fired on April 27, 2007, he didn’t file the wrongful termination and retaliation lawsuit until after Republic enforced a one-year non-compete clause that prevented him from working at a local competitor. The jurors reportedly felt that the company blocked every opportunity for the plaintiff to get another job and left with with little choice but to sue.
Reportedly, the jurors said the key piece of evidence was an email penned by the plaintiff’s boss. The Plaintiff presented a computer expert who found that Bowen had post-dated the memo and added two paragraphs critical of the Plaintiff’s job performance two weeks after he filed the lawsuit.
Republic is in the process of a merger that will make it the second largest waste-collection company in the country. It employs 13,000 workers in 21 states, and had $3.2 billion in revenue last year.
Hat Tip: Ohio Employer’s Law Blog