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Florida Verdicts

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Shift change resulted in health issues, forced early retirement

Amount:

$251,078

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Florida

Venue:

Federal

Court:

U.S. District Court, Northern District, Tallahassee

Injury Type(s):

mental/psychological-emotional distress

Case Type:

Employment - Failure to Accommodate, Disability Discrimination

Case Name:

Stanley Snead v. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Board of Trustees, No. 4:15-cv-00325-rh-cas

Date:

October 20, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Stanley Snead (Male, 62 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Melissa A. Horwitz; Law Office of Richard E. Johnson; Tallahassee, FL, for Stanley Snead ■ Richard Errol Johnson; Law Office of Richard E. Johnson; Tallahassee, FL, for Stanley Snead

Defendant(s):

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Board of Trustees

Defense Attorney(s):

Joel Steven Carter; Henry Buchanan, P.A.; Tallahassee, FL, for Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Board of Trustees ■ Joseph Vickers Gardner; Henry Buchanan, P.A.; Tallahassee, FL, for Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Board of Trustees

Insurer(s):

Self-Insured for Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Board of Trustees.

Facts:

On January 1, 2014, plaintiff Stanley Snead, 62, a police officer, retired. Snead claimed that he was forced to retire. Snead sued Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Board of Trustees for loss of earnings and emotional distress. Snead's counsel claimed that for more than eight years he was a police officer with a perfect employment record at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). Snead worked eight-hour shifts. He claimed that in the fall 2013, a new police chief implemented a change from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts. Snead complied with the change for a few months. Snead, who had controlled high blood pressure, then presented to his physician with complaints of lightheadedness and dizziness. His physician determined that his high blood pressure, which had been under control, was now out of control. This was brought on by the changes in his sleeping and eating habits as a result of working 12-hour shifts, his physician concluded. Snead presented this information to his supervisor and to the university's Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) office and requested permission to work eight-hour shifts only, not 12-hour shifts. Snead claimed that his supervisor responded by stating that if he gave Snead a special accommodation, other police officers would want one too. The supervisor denied making this statement. The EOP office responded by requesting letters from Snead's primary care doctor and cardiologist. Snead's physicians supplied their medical opinion that Snead was medically incapable of working a 12-hour shift, or working more than 40 hours per week. FAMU EOP followed up with Snead's physicians to request additional information, and Snead's physicians responded that the requested accommodation was for a permanent eight-hour, daytime shift. This medical opinion was discussed with Snead by the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for FAMU EOP. A decision was made by FAMU that his request would not be accommodated, and Snead claimed that is was suggested that he retire if he cannot work a 12-hour shift. Snead retired on January 1, 2014. Snead filed a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that he was forced to retire. He later filed a lawsuit against FAMU. Plaintiff's counsel argued that Snead's request for an eight-hour shift did not place an undue burden on the work environment of the FAMU Police Department. Defense counsel argued that Snead's requested accommodation was unreasonable under the governing law, that Snead was medically incapable of performing the essential functions of his position as a patrol officer, specifically with regard to his inability to work a 12-hour shift, and further argued that Snead's requested accommodation would have imposed an undue hardship on FAMU Police Department.

Injury:

Snead sought recovery for loss of earnings and for emotional distress.

Result:

The jury determined that Snead did have a disability and that he asked for a reasonable accommodation. The jury further determined that the university did not make a good faith effort to accommodate Snead's request. The jury awarded Snead $251,078. The breakdown of this award is as follows: $142,268 for loss of earnings and $108,810 for emotional distress. In addition, the judge ordered Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University to reinstate Snead, subject to conditions.

Stanley Snead: $142,268 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $108,810 Personal Injury: emotional distress

Trial Information:

Judge:

Robert L. Hinkle

Demand:

Not disclosed.

Offer:

Not disclosed.

Trial Length:

2  days

Trial Deliberations:

3  hours

Jury Vote:

Unanimous.

Jury Composition:

5 female/4 male

Post Trial:

A Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law has been made by the defense. In that motion, defense argued that the plaintiff's presentation of evidence at trial was insufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find in his favor, and therefore the verdict should be set aside.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.