Judge Cuts ADA Jury Award
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 16, 2004
DENVER, COLORADO--An $8.6 million jury award under the Americans with Disabilities Act has been reduced to just over $1 million, the Rocky Mountain News reported Wednesday.
Gregory Zolnick successfully sued his former employer, Graphic Packaging Corp. for disability-related discrimination.
Zolnick went on short-term disability leave in August 1998 when he was hospitalized for an aneurysm and fell into a coma. After going through physical and occupational therapies, Zolnick figured he was ready to return to his job in December of that year. His doctor agreed.
His employer, on the other hand, would not allow him to return to work.
Zolnick filed suit in 2000 against Graphic claiming that he was denied employment because he was still regarded as having a disability.
On September 24 of this year, a federal jury in Denver ordered the company to pay Zolnick punitive damages amounting to $7.5 million, $6,000 in back pay, plus a $500,000 compensatory award, attorneys' fees and related costs. Zolnick's attorneys said they believed it to be the largest ADA-related award in Colorado history at the time.
However, on Tuesday, Colorado U.S. District Judge John Kane reduced the award. Kane wrote in his decision that federal law limits jury awards to $300,000, not including back pay, when lawsuits claim certain civil rights laws were violated, including the ADA. State laws, however, have a higher limit on such awards, he said.
Kane added that attorneys on one or both sides of the case would likely appeal his decision. He said that that federal and state laws regarding award limits conflict with each other, creating "an impossible situation" for the courts.