Barati v. Metro-North Railroad Company
ORDER: For the reasons discussed above, Defendant's motion 137 to amend the judgment is GRANTED and Defendant's motion 137 for a new trial is DENIED. Defendant's motion 137 for judgment as a matter of law with respect to emotional distress damages is also DENIED.The Clerk is directed to amend the judgment to reduce the punitive damages award to the statutory cap of $250,000. Signed by Judge Janet Bond Arterton on 03/22/2013. (Flagg, K.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
Civil No. 3:10cv1756 (JBA)
COMMUTER RAILROAD COMPANY,
March 22, 2013
RULING ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO AMEND JUDGMENT,
FOR A NEW TRIAL, AND FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW
Following a six–day trial, the jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff Andrew Barati’s
favor on his claims under the Federal Rail Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. § 20109 (“FRSA”), and the
Federal Employer Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51 (“FELA”). Defendant Metro–North moves
[Doc. # 137] pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b) to amend the
judgment, for a new trial, and for judgment as a matter of law. For the reasons that
follow, the portion of Defendant’s motion seeking to alter the judgment will be granted
and the remainder denied.
In April 2008, while Andrew Barati was working as a trackman with Metro–
North, he “tripped the jack” as Defendant taught him and thereby lowered the load of his
jack all at once onto his left foot, crushing his left big toe. He reported this injury to
Defendant and was subsequently disciplined and terminated. He sought recovery for his
injury under the FELA and under the FRSA for the discipline Defendant imposed, where
Defendant’s decision to discharge him in violation of the FRSA was related to his
protected activity of reporting his work–related injury.
On his FELA claim, the jury found that Plaintiff had proved that Metro–North
was negligent, that such negligence played a part in bringing about his injuries and that
Metro–North had proved that Plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to 60% of his
injuries. (See Verdict Form [Doc. # 123] at 1–2.) The jury awarded him $50,000 in
damages, which the Court reduced by 60% to $20,000.
On his FRSA claim, the jury found that Mr. Barati had proved that Metro–North’s
adverse action against him was due in part to his reporting this work–related injury, and
awarded him $40,000 in emotional distress damages, $350 in economic damages for lost
personal property, and $1,428 in lost wages, for a total of $41,778 in compensatory
damages. (Id. at 3.) The jury further awarded $1,000,000 against Metro–North in punitive
Motion to Amend the Judgment Pursuant to Rule 59(e) and 60(b)
Defendant moves under Rule 59(e) and 60(b), asking the Court to alter the
judgment to reflect the statutory cap on punitive damages provided under the FRSA.
Defendant also argues that the punitive damages award must be further reduced to
comport with due process.
A. Statutory Damages Cap
Under the FRSA, “[r]elief . . . may include punitive damages in an amount not to
exceed $250,000.” 49 U.S.C. § 20109(e)(3). Accordingly, Defendant’s motion to alter the
judgment to reflect a punitive damages award of $250,000 is granted on consent.
B. Due Process
Defendant argues that under the factors set out in BMW of North America v. Gore,
517 U.S. 559, 574 (1996), even Plaintiff’s reduced punitive damages award is “excessively
high.” The cases Defendant relies on, however, involved no statutory cap on punitive
damages, see, e.g., State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 425 (2003),
and thus are not instructive as to how a legislative determination of a permissible punitive
damages maximum affects the analysis of excessiveness.
Three “guideposts” are set down in Gore: “(1) the degree of reprehensibility of the
defendant’s misconduct; (2) the disparity between the actual or potential harm suffered
by the plaintiff and the punitive damages award; and (3) the difference between the
punitive damages awarded by the jury and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in
comparable cases.” Gore, 517 U.S. at 575; Thomas v. iStar Fin., Inc., 652 F.3d 141, 148 (2d
The “degree of reprehensibility” factor is “perhaps the most important indicium
of the reasonableness of a punitive damages award.” Gore, 517 U.S. at 575. Here, by their
award of four times the statutory maximum,1 the jury registered their measure of
reprehensibility to underscore their finding that Defendant’s conduct was in reckless
disregard of Mr. Barati’s safety and FRSA rights. Their conclusion was supported by the
evidence that Defendant failed to train Plaintiff properly, Defendant failed to provide
adequate lighting, resulting in his injury which he promptly reported, and then singled
Plaintiff out for discipline for a safety violation. They jury also had evidence that
At the charge conference, the parties indicated their preference that the jury not
be instructed as to the existence of the statutory cap to damages. This is not an
uncommon practice. See, e.g., Luciano v. Olsten Corp., 110 F.3d 210, 221 (2d Cir. 1997)
(in a Title VII action, “§ 1981a envisions that the level of punitive damages to be awarded
will initially be set by the jury, and that the jury will make that determination without
being influenced by the statutory caps.”); Parrish, 280 F. Supp. 2d at 155 (“[t]he statutory
cap is properly excluded from jury instructions, and only after a verdict is submitted, the
trial court must ensure that any award complies with the relevant statutory maximums
Defendant’s termination of Plaintiff2 was contrary to its written policies and FRA
regulations, was a self–serving effort to discourage employee injury reporting in order to
keep its injury and lost–workday statistics low, violated Defendant’s own obligation to
accurately report employees’ on–the–job injuries and resulting lost work days, and
contravened Defendant’s “safety statement” that “[w]e are committed to the safety of our
employees and our customers,” and “[w]e are determined to provide a work environment
where all employees work safely.” (Kirsch Testimony, Tr. Mar. 16, 2012 [Doc. # 149] at
24:10–19.) The jury, considering all the trial evidence, was entitled to conclude that
Metro–North’s actions against an employee who reported an on–the–job injury which he
sustained as a result of Defendant’s outdated training and the poor lighting provided in
his work area, was very reprehensible. (See Section III infra; see also trial testimony of
Anne Kirsch, George Gavalla, John Wagner, and Mark Ward.)
As to the “disparity” between compensatory damages and punitive damages
awarded, Defendant excludes the $40,000 in emotional distress damages, which it claims
cannot be recovered under the FRSA, see infra at 11, and argues that the resulting ratio
between the amount of punitive damages ($250,000) and the remaining compensatory
damages awarded ($1,778) is a constitutionally improper “ratio of nearly 141 to 1.” (Def.’s
Mem. Supp. [Doc. # 138] at 10.) In Gore, the Supreme Court noted that while it has
“consistently rejected the notion that the constitutional line is marked by a simple
mathematical formula,” 517 U.S. at 582, the ratio between compensatory damages and
punitive damages is the “most commonly cited indicium of an unreasonable or excessive
punitive damages award,” 517 U.S. at 580 (“When the ratio is a breathtaking 500 to 1 . . .
the award must surely ‘raise a suspicious judicial eyebrow.’”) (internal citations omitted).
Plaintiff’s termination was ultimately converted to a suspension without pay.
Here, the ratio between the punitive award of $250,000 and total compensatory damages
of $41,778 is approximately six to one, which should cause no judicial facial expression at
all, much less a raised eyebrow. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S.
408, 425 (2003) (“Single–digit multipliers are more likely to comport with due process,
while still achieving the State’s goals of deterrence and retribution, than awards with
ratios in range of 500 to 1.”).
Gore’s final factor, “sanctions for comparable misconduct,” cannot be applied here
because Mr. Barati’s case is the first FRSA case tried to a jury verdict in the country.
Applying the two Gore factors to the circumstances of Mr. Barati’s FRSA case, the Court
concludes that Mr. Barati’s reduced punitive damages award does not violate due process,
and accordingly, his $250,000 award will not be reduced.
Motion for a New Trial3
Metro–North moves for a new trial on the basis that it was unfairly prejudiced by
the testimony of Plaintiff’s expert witness George Gavalla.4 Metro-North asserts that
Gavalla’s testimony was “highly speculative” and presented “a fairly scathing picture of
‘railroad culture’” which was unduly prejudicial to Metro-North. (Def.’s Mem. Supp. at
5.) It also contends that cross–examination did not adequately cure the negative “culture”
“[F]or a district court to order a new trial under Rule 59(a), it must conclude that
“‘the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or . . . the verdict is a miscarriage of
justice,’” i.e., it must view the jury’s verdict as “against the weight of the evidence.”
Manley v. AmBase Corp., 337 F.3d 237, 244–45 (2d Cir. 2003).
Defendant offers no legal authority on which to base its motion for new trial on
account of Gavalla’s testimony, and the Court interprets Defendant’s “unfair prejudice”
argument as one referring to Federal Rule of Evidence 403, which provides that “[t]he
court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a
danger of . . . unfair prejudice.”
prejudice to Defendant which Plaintiff’s counsel revisited and made the primary theme of
his closing argument.
The Court denied Defendant’s pre–trial motion in limine to totally preclude Mr.
Gavalla’s trial testimony but narrowed the scope of Mr. Gavalla’s permissible testimony to
his experience and knowledge as the head of the Federal Rail Administration (“FRA”)
Office of Safety for seven years, with responsibility for carrying out the FRA’s safety
inspection program, safety enforcement program, accident investigation program, and
drafting of safety rules, regulations, and standards. (Gavalla Testimony, Tr. Mar. 20, 2012
[Doc. # 150] at 124:6–10.) Mr. Gavalla was not permitted to testify about the specifics of
any particular railroad’s safety methodologies, only what he, in his capacity as the head of
FRA’s Office of Safety, identified as the rules and safety regulations that railroads were
required to implement, known as the “Internal Control Plan,” or “ICP.” Mr. Gavalla
defined an ICP as:
a policy statement whereby a railroad states its commitment to the
complete and accurate reporting of all accidents, employee injuries,
occupational illnesses, and it sets forth its commitment to fully complying
with FRA’s regulations regarding accident incident reporting, and it also
has a policy statement setting forth the railroad's commitment to the
prevention of or the prohibition against harassment or intimidation of
railroad workers . . . regarding the reporting of accidents and injuries, and
it also requires the railroads to sort of specify or set forth the system that
they have in place to assure that those two objectives are met.
(Id. at 131:13–132:1.) Mr. Gavalla’s testimony about Metro-North’s own ICP was that it
was “exactly identical to the FRA requirement,” which requires that the railroad
“completely and accurately report all accidents, injuries and occupational illnesses, and
that it comply with the requirements of the FRA regulations regarding accidents and
injury reporting.” (Id. at 135:1–6.) It was the large gap between Defendant’s ICP and its
actual practice that was the gist of Plaintiff’s closing.
Mr. Gavalla did not testify as to “railroad culture” in the manner that Defendant
contends. Indeed, Mr. Gavalla’s testimony was general, and not focused on any particular
railroad’s culture, although he also did not exclude Metro–North. On direct examination,
Mr. Gavalla testified about the importance of railroads accurately reporting injuries and
employees’ “lost days from work” from injuries, and testified that the “FRA uses the lost
days data as a measure of severity when making determinations of where to send their
inspectors, . . . [y]ou need to have accurate data on the severity of the accident and
injury.” (Id. at 143:16–22.) He further opined that “[o]bviously, the whole point and
purpose of the internal control plan is to ensure that a railroad has an effective . . . safety
management program in place so that you could identify incidents that were not reported
properly and then correct them.” (Id. at 144:3–8.)
When asked, “in the context of all of the injuries reported to the FRA by all of the
railroads during the year, what difference does it make to swear to the accuracy of an
injury report that underreports lost injury days by one–third?” Mr. Gavalla responded:
Well, again, it goes to the—you’d have to look at the implications for why
was that discrepancy allowed to occur. You’d have to ask the question,
well, did the railroad—was the railroad deficient in their management of
the safety process? Did it fail to actually find that data out and get it to the
right people responsible in reporting it? So, did the people who were
responsible for escalating that information—or giving that information to
the reporting officer, did they not know what they were supposed to do, or
did the system they have in place not catch them. And if the answer is,
well, those things were okay, then you’d have to ask the question, well, was
there something—was there a problem with the railroad’s safety culture, the
integrity of it, its intentions to report. So, you’d have to look at why wasn’t
that accident or injury reported properly.
(Id. at 144:14–145:6 (emphasis added).) On cross–examination, defense counsel clarified
with Mr. Gavalla that when he had testified about the “culture of a railroad,” he was not
speaking specifically about Metro–North, and Mr. Gavalla agreed, explaining that during
his direct examination, “I was being asked to opine on the principles involved and the
rule and the regulations involved as opposed to the specifics of the issue.” (Id. at 178:18–
Mr. Gavalla also testified generally about “categories of conduct” which the FRA
identified as falling within a particular ICP regulation with respect to the “harassment or
intimidation of persons calculated to discourage or prevent the reporting of injuries.” (Id.
at 147:19-22.) The categories he identified included: “singling out employees who are
injured for disciplinary action,” disciplining employees who are injured on the job
because of safety violations, while other employees, who commit the same safety
violations and are not injured are not disciplined, and having management or railroad
officials “threaten or recommend to employees that they’re better off not reporting an
injury or an accident.” (Id. at 148:1–16.) Mr. Gavalla spoke of these “categories of
conduct” in a general manner, without providing any opinion as to whether Metro–
North had or had not engaged in any such conduct. That testimony came from
Defendant’s own employees which focused specifically on Metro–North’s safety
regulations, policies, and “culture.” Metro–North’s Chief Safety and Security Officer,
Anne Kirsch, was asked about Metro–North’s ICP, which required FRA approval, and
about Metro–North’s safety rules and training materials, which are not required to be
sent to the FRA. Ms. Kirsch testified that the safety manual required that “when lowering
the jack, lower it one notch at a time. Do not release the load all at once” (Kirsch
Testimony, Tr. Mar. 16, 2012 [Doc. # 149] at 33:9–10; Safety Rules [Ex. 10] at 1300.8). She
identified this particular safety rule as “guidance . . . provided to employees to . . . prevent
injuries when performing tasks” (Tr. at 149:14–18). However, Ms. Kirsch conceded that
Metro–North had instead trained Plaintiff to lower a jack by “tripping it” and letting the
load drop all at once (id. at 37:6–12), which is how Plaintiff injured himself. Ms. Kirsch
also conceded that when Metro–North initially submitted its injury report about Mr.
Barati’s injury, it underreported the number of “lost work days” by over 20 days. (Id. at
Given the testimony from Ms. Kirsch about Metro–North’s own safety rules,
reporting policies, and disciplinary practices, juxtaposed with the general testimony
provided by Mr. Gavalla about the FRA’s role in investigating railroad workplace safety,
and the importance of accurately reporting work–related injuries, it is clear that Mr.
Gavalla’s testimony was proper and not unfairly prejudicial to Metro-North. It was Ms.
Kirsch’s testimony, combined with testimony by Track Department Director John
Wagner and Training Department Manager Mark Ward that revealed the discrepancies
between Defendant’s articulated policies and its actual training practices and Defendant’s
disparate disciplinary treatment of just Plaintiff that entitled the jury to find Defendant
liable under the FELA and FRSA.
Defendant generally objects to Attorney Goetsch’s rebuttal summation for the
first time in post–trial briefing, but does not point to any specifics from the summation
that it now challenges. A court considers claims of improper summation argument “in
the context of the trial as a whole, examining, among other things, the ‘[t]otality of the
circumstances, including the nature of the comments, their frequency, their possible
relevancy to the real issues before the jury, [and] the manner in which the parties and the
court treated the comments.’” Okraynets v. Metro. Transp. Auth., 555 F. Supp. 2d 420, 429
(S.D.N.Y. 2008) (internal citations omitted).
Attorney Goetsch’s remarks about a “safety culture” particular to Metro–North in
his rebuttal responded directly to Attorney Fineman’s closing arguments that Metro–
North did not have a “culture.” The context Attorney Goetsch set for his rebuttal
included the pieces of evidence of improper training and poor lighting from which the
jury could infer a violation of the FELA, and Defendant’s underreporting of Plaintiff’s lost
workdays and its disciplining only Plaintiff when he reported his injury as supporting a
finding of a FRSA violation. He did not mischaracterize facts or testimony from Metro–
North’s witnesses, and his description of this “safety culture,” which he argued evinced a
reckless disregard for its employees, was argument that fell well within the bounds of
propriety. No contemporaneous objection was taken to Attorney Goetsch’s comments
about “safety culture,” and the jury had six days of trial evidence with which to evaluate
Attorney Goetsch’s arguments. See Marcic, 397 F.3d at 127–28 (“To the extent that
Reinauer's counsel’s statements were improper, they were not objected to, and occurred
in the context of a summation spanning thirty-seven pages of trial transcript, at the end of
a week–long trial in which voluminous evidence was introduced that sufficed to support
the jury’s verdict.”).
In short, absent a showing of undue prejudice from Mr. Gavalla’s testimony or
Attorney Goetsch’s rebuttal summation focusing on Metro–North’s “culture,” there was
no “manifest error” or a “miscarriage of justice” warranting a new trial.
Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law as to Emotional Distress
At trial, the Court charged the jury that FRSA remedies included compensatory
damages, including emotional distress damages, and denied Metro–North’s motion in
limine to preclude Mr. Barati from offering any evidence or argument regarding the
emotional distress he claimed to have suffered in connection with his FRSA claim.
Defendant frames this issue again in its motion for judgment as a matter of law, arguing
that the FRSA does not permit an award of emotional distress damages, and that the jury
should not have been permitted to consider or award such damages. For the reasons that
follow, the Court concludes that damages for emotional distress are available under the
FRSA, and Metro North’s motion is therefore denied.
Under the FRSA’s remedies section, “[a]n employee prevailing in any action . . .
shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole.” 49 U.S.C.
§ 20109(e)(1). The damages section of the FRSA states in pertinent part:
(2) Damages.—Relief in an action under subsection (d) (including an
action described in subsection (d)(3)) shall include—
Judgment as a matter of law may be rendered if “a reasonable jury would not
have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue.” Fed. R. Civ.
Proc. 50(a)(1). A renewed Rule 50(b) motion will be granted “only if the evidence,
drawing all inferences in favor of the non–moving party and giving deference to all
credibility determinations of the jury, is insufficient to permit a reasonable juror to find
in his favor.” Lavin–McEleney v. Marist College, 239 F.3d 467, 479 (2d Cir. 2001). Thus,
“judgment as a matter of law should not be granted unless (1) there is such a complete
absence of evidence supporting the verdict that the jury findings could only have been the
result of sheer surmise and conjecture, or (2) there is such an overwhelming amount of
evidence in favor of the movant that reasonable and fair minded [persons] could not
arrive at a verdict against [it].” Id. at 480 (quoting DiSanto v. McGraw–Hill, Inc., 220 F.3d
61, 64 (2d Cir. 2000)). A movant under Rule 50 “faces a high bar.” Id.
(A) reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would
have had, but for the discrimination;
(B) any backpay, with interest; and
(C) compensatory damages, including compensation for any special
damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation
costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.
Id. § 20109(e)(2).
The issue of whether compensatory damages for emotional distress are
recoverable under the FRSA appears to be one of first impression. Thus, Plaintiff and
Defendant urge the Court to consider two other federal statutes for guidance. Plaintiff
cites the remedies provision of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act
for the 21st Century (“AIR–21”), as support for his argument that emotional distress
damages are contemplated as part of the “compensatory damages” allowed under the
FRSA and AIR–21. The AIR–21 Remedy section provides:
(B) Remedy. —If, in response to a complaint filed under paragraph (1),
the Secretary of Labor determines that a violation of subsection (a) has
occurred, the Secretary of Labor shall order the person who committed
such violation to—
(i) take affirmative action to abate the violation;
(ii) reinstate the complainant to his or her former position together
with the compensation (including back pay) and restore the terms,
conditions, and privileges associated with his or her employment;
(iii) provide compensatory damages to the complainant.
49 U.S.C. § 42121. Defendant relies on the language of the damages provision of the
Sarbanes–Oxley Act (“SOX”) to support its conclusion that compensatory damages under
the FRSA do not include damages for emotional distress. Under SOX, the section entitled
(1) In general.—An employee prevailing in any action under subsection
(b)(1) shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole.
(2) Compensatory damages.—Relief for any action under paragraph (1)
(A) reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee
would have had, but for the discrimination;
(B) the amount of back pay, with interest; and
(C) compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of
the discrimination, including litigation costs, expert witness fees,
and reasonable attorney fees.
18 U.S.C. § 1514A.
“As in all statutory construction cases, we begin with the language of the statute.”
Barnhart v. Sigmon Coal Co., Inc., 534 U.S. 438, 450 (2002). However, the language of the
FRSA permitting “compensatory damages” is without further detail as to the intended
scope of this term beyond inclusion of “special damages.” AIR–21 similarly permits
recovery for “compensatory damages” without detail or delimintation. SOX, on the other
hand, while providing a make–whole remedy, limits “compensatory damages” to
reinstatement, back pay and special damages. A treatise definition of ‘compensatory
damages’ is “the damages awarded to a person as compensation, indemnity, or restitution
for harm sustained by him [or her],” Restatement (Second) of Torts § 903 (1979).
“Compensatory damages” are divided into those that are ‘pecuniary,’ and ‘non–
pecuniary.’ Id. § 905. ‘Non–pecuniary’ compensatory damages include “compensation for
bodily harm and emotional distress, and are awarded without proof of pecuniary loss.” Id.
§ 905–06. ‘Special damages’ are defined as “compensatory damages for a harm other than
one for which general damages are given.” Id. § 904.
Since both FRSA and AIR–21 have comparable “compensatory damages”
provisions, and AIR–21 has served as a statutory model for the FRSA, which expressly
incorporates the burden of proof of AIR–21, see 49 U.S.C. § 20109(d)(2)(i) (“Burdens of
proof.—Any action brought under (d)(1) shall be governed by the legal burdens of proof set
forth in section 42121(b) [AIR–21].”) (emphasis added); see also Araujo v. New Jersey
Transit Rail Operations, Inc., 708 F.3d 152 (3d Cir. 2013) (“[t]he FRSA incorporates by
reference the rules and procedures applicable to Wendell H. ford Aviation Investment
and Reform Act for the 21st Century (“AIR-21”) whistleblower cases.”),6 the construction
of AIR–21 provides a better analog than SOX, particularly because they carry analogous
safety whistleblower protections for employees in the airline and railroad industries. The
few AIR–21 cases addressing emotional distress damages permit their recovery. See, e.g.,
Vieques Air Link, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor, 437 F.3d 102, 110 (1st Cir. 2006);7 Luder v.
Continental Airlines, Inc., ARB Case No. 10-026 & ALJ Case No. 2008-AIR-2009 (January
Araujo v. New Jersey Transit Rail Operators, Inc. is the first appellate decision to
address the FRSA, and while the decision, which reversed a grant of summary judgment
by the district court, does not address the damages inquiry, the Third Circuit explicitly
noted looked to AIR–21 for the requirements for the FRSA plaintiff’s prima facie case.
In Vieques Air Link, the First Circuit affirmed an Administrative Law Judge’s
award of $50,000 in compensatory damages for “mental anguish,” writing:
[T]he ALJ relied on Negrón's testimony that he struggled to support his
wife and two infant children while he looked for new full–time
employment following his termination by VAL. Although Negrón found a
new job by mid-September, 2002, in the meantime he was forced to sell
both of his family's modest cars and deplete their meager savings to make
ends meet. Negrón specifically testified that this ordeal caused him
suffering and pain. The ALJ noted that like circumstances had justified
similar awards in a number of cases which had come before the ARB; for
its part, the ARB agreed with this assessment. Accordingly, we believe that
substantial evidence supported the $50,000 award that Negrón received for
the mental anguish caused by his termination.
Vieques, 437 F.3d at 110.
31, 2012).8 Significantly, there are no reported cases concluding that emotional distress
damages are unavailable under AIR–21.
Adhering to the rule of statutory construction, “the meaning of a statute must, in
the first instance, be sought in the language in which the act is framed, and if that is plain
. . . the sole function of the courts is to enforce it according to its terms,” Caminetti v.
United States, 242 U.S. 470, 485 (1917). In the absence of any indication from the
statutory language of an intention to limit “compensatory damages” to less than its
generally accepted definition, the Court concludes that the FRSA permits recovery for
emotional distress. This conclusion that no limitation was intended on the scope of
damages recoverable is buttressed by the language that special damages are also included:
“compensatory damages, including compensation for any special damages . . .”
Defendant’s view that this statutory language should be read as limiting compensatory
damages to the itemized special damages is contrary to its plain meaning. See West v.
Gibson, 527 U.S. 212, 217 (1999) (“the preceding word ‘including’ makes clear that the
authorization is not limited to the specified remedies there mentioned.”). Accordingly,
Defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50(b) is denied, and
Plaintiff’s emotional distress damages in the amount $40,000 will stand.
In Luder, the Administrative Review Board “affirmed compensatory damage
awards for emotional distress, even absent medical evidence, where the lay witness
statements are credible and unrefuted.” ARB Case No. 10-026 & ALJ Case No. 2008-AIR2009.
For the reasons discussed above, Defendant’s motion to amend the judgment is
GRANTED and Defendant’s motion for a new trial is DENIED. Defendant’s motion for
judgment as a matter of law with respect to emotional distress damages is also DENIED.
The Clerk is directed to amend the judgment to reduce the punitive damages
award to the statutory cap of $250,000.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Janet Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.
Dated at New Haven, Connecticut this 22nd day of March, 2013.
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