Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving for One Plaintiff - MDV in Harrisburg

A Harrisburg federal court jury found for the former director of the Pennsylvania state agency for the blind and visually impaired as reported by the Associated Press in the Hanover Evening Sun, Federal jury awards $3.4M to blind woman.

From a quick look at stories on the internet, Christine Boone's firing had been something of a cause celebre for various advocacy groups. A story, Pennsylvania Rejects Good Services for Blind People, from the December 2003 Braille Monitor, gives you a taste.

From the start of the trial the positions were well staked out. According to the AP report on the first day of trial, Boone's lawyer claimed:

They didn't like the fact that she was pursuing things on behalf of the blind and visually impaired" in ways the agency previously had not. [Her boss] did not want to tolerate an assertive, independent blind woman.
The employer's counsel countered:
This case is about reliability. This case is about the equality to get fired. It's about management. It's about policymaking. And it's about judgment.
I like the phrase "the equality to get fired," but it clearly wasn't enough to carry the day.

Boone apparently had more than just a disability claim since:

The jury [also] decided that Boone had proven that the two [individual defendants] made false, defamatory and stigmatizing public statements about her firing that called into question her good name, reputation and professional qualifications.
Defamation and disability, when the jury goes south on you, is obviously a dangerous combination. Of course when the jury goes south, almost anything is.

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