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MCINTOSH v. IRVING TRUST CO.

June 3, 1995

DOUGLAS MCINTOSH, Plaintiff, against IRVING TRUST COMPANY, Defendant.

JOHN G. KOELTL, United States District Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN G. KOELTL

JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge:

 The plaintiff, Douglas McIntosh, brought this action against his former employer, Irving Trust Company ("the Bank"), on September 4, 1987. The plaintiff, who is African American, alleged that the Bank had intentionally discriminated against him because of his race by failing to promote him from the position of Customer Relations Assistant to that of Assistant Secretary and by terminating him. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant intentionally retaliated against him by continuing to deny him a promotion, by disciplining him and by terminating him after he complained of discrimination. The plaintiff brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York Human Rights Law. A more detailed description of the action is contained in the Court's previous decision which disposed of various matters related to the entry of the judgment in this case. See McIntosh v. Irving Trust Co., 873 F. Supp. 872 (S.D.N.Y. 1995).

 Following an eight-day trial, the jury rendered a special verdict for the plaintiff under the New York Human Rights Law, finding that the plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for his complaints of discrimination and awarding him $ 310,000.00 in back pay and $ 219,428.00 in compensatory damages for pain, suffering, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress. The jury determined, under the New York Human Rights Law, that McIntosh was not discriminated against because of his race when the Bank failed to promote him and when it terminated him.

 The defendant Irving Trust Company has moved for a new trial under Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure solely with respect to the jury's award of $ 219,428.00 in compensatory damages under the New York Human Rights law. *fn1"

 I.

 In discussing the appropriate standards a court should apply in determining whether there should be a new trial, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has explained:

 Bevevino v. Saydjari, 574 F.2d 676, 684 (2d Cir. 1978); see also Piesco v. Koch, 12 F.3d 332, 345 (2d Cir. 1993); Sorlucco v. New York City Police Dep't, 971 F.2d 864, 875 (2d Cir. 1992).

 The defendant has satisfied this standard and is entitled to a new trial on the issue of compensatory damages unless the plaintiff agrees to a remittitur reducing his award to $ 20,000.00. The Court is convinced, after reviewing all of the evidence in the case and comparing the jury's award with other awards under the Human Rights Law, that the jury reached a seriously erroneous result and that denying a remittitur in this case would result in a miscarriage of justice.

 II.

 The plaintiff argues that the circumstances of this case do not justify interfering with the jury's critical function of assessing damages. The plaintiff is quite right that a reviewing court owes great deference to a jury in its performance of this crucial role. See, e.g., Ismail v. Cohen, 899 F.2d 183, 186 (2d Cir. 1990) ("It is well settled that calculation of damages is the province of the jury."). However, there are boundaries to this deference. A damage award should be upheld unless it is "so excessive 'as to shock the judicial conscience.'" Scala v. Moore McCormack Lines, 985 F.2d 680, 683 (2d Cir. 1993) (citing Wheatley v. Ford, 679 F.2d 1037, 1039 (2d Cir. 1982)).

 The defendant argues: first, that the plaintiff failed to introduce sufficient evidence at trial to justify the jury's compensatory damages verdict; and second, that even if the plaintiff had introduced additional evidence with respect to the nature and extent of any emotional damages, comparable cases, both state and federal, indicate that an award of only $ 5,000.00 is appropriate.

 With respect to the extent of the evidence of any mental anguish or emotional injury, the only such trial testimony came from the plaintiff, himself. The plaintiff testified to highly subjective feelings that he said he experienced during certain incidents at work. For example, he testified that he "felt humiliated" during a meeting when his supervisor "interrogated" him in "an accusatory manner" about prospective clients he was working to obtain and that he felt "shocked" and "angry" when he was given a reprimand that he believed, and the jury may very well have concluded, was unwarranted. (Trial Tr. of 11/9/94 at 124-25, 145.) And, he testified that when he was required to have daily meetings to review his work with both his supervisor and his team leader, in full view of the rest of his department, he "felt like dirt[,]" was humiliated and embarrassed and "felt terrible." (Trial Tr. of 11/9/94 at ...


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