Nelson v. Tradewind Aviation LLC
Connecticut General Statutes §52-216a provides, "If the court at the conclusion of the trial concludes that the verdict is excessive as a matter of law, it shall order a remittitur." The plaintiff pilot, Jeffrey Nelson, sued his former employer, alleging that his former employer falsely informed a prospective employer that he was discharged for performance reasons, as opposed to let go for lack of work. A jury awarded economic damages of $207,332 and non-economic damages of $100,000 on the plaintiff's allegations of defamatory and malicious conduct. The defendant employer moved for a remittitur, and argued that there were additional events that contributed to the plaintiff's emotional distress and that the plaintiff did not receive any medical treatment for emotional distress. The "constitutional right of trial by jury includes the right to have the issues of fact as to which there is room for a reasonable difference of opinion among fair minded men passed upon by the jury and not by the court," pursuant to Camp v. Booth, a 1970 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Here, the plaintiff testified that after his prospective job offer was rescinded, he experienced a great deal of emotional distress, became introspective and became worried that he had been mistaken for an individual who possessed a criminal record. Although the plaintiff did not obtain any medical treatment, the jury concluded the plaintiff's emotional-distress claim was valid. "There is no specific requirement," wrote the court, "that a plaintiff undergo medical care or treatment or be diagnosed by a medical provider in order to substantiate a claim of emotional distress." The jury's award of $100,000 for emotional distress failed to shock the court's conscience, and the court denied the defendant's motion for remittitur. In a separate memorandum, the court also denied the defendant employer's motion to set aside and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The jury had sufficient evidence to find that the plaintiff truthfully testified that he was let go because of lack of work and that his former employer misrepresented to a prospective employer that he had been discharged as a result of his performance.