Pennsylvania Record

Friday, July 19, 2019

A $5 million punitive damages verdict in Philadelphia has been reduced to $300K by judge


By Takesha Thomas | Feb 21, 2019

PHILADELPHIA - A $5 million jury verdict against Teva Pharmaceuticals has been cut to $300,000 after a Philadelphia judge ruled on post-trial motions.

On Feb. 4, U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney denied Teva Pharmaceuticals' motion for judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure in the matter involving former employee Stephen Middlebrooks. 

The company, which filed the motions in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, asked that the court vacate the punitive damage awarded and grant a new trial. 

Kearney denying that request writing, "We reject the employer's argument except we must reduce the punitive damages to $300,000 under Congress's $300,000 cap on damages for these type of employment cases. We also grant the employee's motion for prejudgment interest."

Middlebrooks had filed a motion with the exception of request. However, the court denied that request based on the statuatory cap instead awarding him $23,687 in prejudgement interest on the $332,000 backpay award calculated at the IRS overpayment rate. 

A trial court had awarded Middlebrooks $200,000 compensatory damages, $332,000 backpay, $450,000 frontpay and $5 million in punitive damages in his claims of retaliation and retaliatory hostile work environment against Teva.

According to court filings, Middlebrooks had worked for Teva between 2001 and February 2016. He was initially hired as director of facilities engineering at the North Wales facility and eventually was promoted to director of facilities engineering in 2013, making him responsible for more than 40 facilities and 50 direct reports. 

Middlebrooks, who is American, alleged that he was wrongfully fired by his "long-time Israeli employer because of his age or American national origin," the ruling said. He alleged that the workplace became hostile after he complained about a poor performance review. Middlebrooks also alleged that he was eventually fired after he filed a complaint alleging that his manager and Teva conspired to have him fired and discriminated against him. 

A trial court found that the company had not discriminated against him based on his age and national origin. The trial did, however, find that Teva created a hostile work environment and retaliated against Middlebrooks. 

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Teva Pharmaceuticals U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

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