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Employment Suit Against Puerto Rican Tourism Company, Plus Assumption of Risk Case

By FindLaw Staff on June 30, 2010 2:51 PM

Mercado-Berrios v. Cancel-Alegria, No. 08-1098, concerned a challenge to the jury's verdict in favor of the plaintiff and an award of $213,000 in compensatory damages and $1,000,000 in punitive damages, in plaintiff's political discrimination and speech retaliation suit, claiming that she was wrongly denied a permanent position with the Puerto Rican Tourism Company. 

In reversing the judgment as to the plaintiff's political discrimination claim, the court held that  it was not reasonable for the jury to conclude that plaintiff's political beliefs were a substantial or motivating factor in defendant's decision not to hire her.  With respect to plaintiff's retaliation claim, the court affirmed the judgment as to this claim, because defendant has not contested the sufficiency of the evidence, or made any other argument attacking the speech retaliation claim.  The court affirmed the award of compensatory damages, but vacated and remanded the jury's award of punitive damages, unless the plaintiff agrees to a reduction of the award to $500,000, as an award of $1,000,000 against an individual-capacity defendant based on the conduct proved at trial is grossly excessive and shocking to the conscience of the court.

Sheehan v. N. Am. Marketing Corp., No. 08-1519, concerned a product liability suit against a seller and a manufacturer of swimming pools, for sustaining serious injuries while attempting to dive into a shallow, above-ground pool, rendering her a quadriplegic.  In affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the court held that a summary judgment is warranted on the facts of the case as plaintiff stood on the coping (six and one-half inch-wide aluminum covering the top perimeter of the pool), in order to dive, and the injury that occurred was the same one contemplated by the multiple warnings - including on the coping itself.  Therefore, plaintiff assumed the risk of diving, including the risk that she might fall from the coping into the pool while attempting to dive.

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