Manufacturing plant supervisor suffers multiple injuries on the job, later fired. $15M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Manufacturing plant supervisor takes a lot of time off due to on-the-job injuries; he's demoted, later fired.  Company says he was soliciting bribes from vendors.

The Case

  • Case Name: Astorga v. Snap-On Logistics
  • Court and Case Number: : Los Angeles Superior Court / BC506474
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, August 30, 2017
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
  • Type of Action: Defamation, Discrimination, ADA, Employment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Victor E. Chavez
  • Plaintiffs:
    Cesar Astorga, 50.
  • Defendants:
    Snap-On Logistics
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $15,000,000
  • Economic Damages:

    $350,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $4,650,000

  • Punitive Damages:

    $10,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 days.
  • Jury Polls: 11-1
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for attorney fees and costs will be filed.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Girardi & Keese by Keith Griffin, Los Angeles.

    Livingston Bakhtiar by Ebby Bakhtiar, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Latham & Watkins by Joe Farrell, Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    None.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    None.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Tamorah Hunt, economics, Santa Ana.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    None.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was a 15-year supervisory employee of defendant company, a manufacturer of power tools. He was hired in January of 1996. Plaintiff had work-related injuries which required multiple surgeries and leaves of absence. During his course of employment with defendant, plaintiff sustained injuries to both knees from falling off a scissor lift and later aggravated the injuries when a 100-pound motor fell on top of him. He has had 7 total knee surgeries (4 right-knee surgeries, 3 left-knee surgeries) to treat ongoing pain. From the beginning of 2002 through mid-2003, plaintiff was absent from work a total of 9 1/2 months. His next period of leaves of absence occurred from the beginning of April 2009 through February 2011, totaling 13 1/2 months.

    At one point, defendant employer provided a golf cart for plaintiff's use to get around the 100,000+ square foot facility. Defendant changed their policy in the 2009-2011 timeframe and told the plaintiff they no longer allowed employees to return to work with doctor-imposed work restrictions.

    He was demoted from his supervisor position during his most recent leave of absence, and fired on April 21, 2011. His medical bills paid by Snap-On exceeded $275,000.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    The main causes of action were disability discrimination and defamation.

    Plaintiff testified that his supervisor had told him that Snap-On did not want to pay him a full paycheck when he was only half a man. He informed his supervisor that he was going to need another surgery and a leave of absence in April of 2011. Two weeks later, he was fired for “cause” and told he was “found guilty.” He spent the next two-and-a-half years trying to find a job, having to list Snap-On as his most recent employer. He did not know it at the time, but Snap-On had conducted an “investigation” behind his back and terminated him for allegedly accepting money from contractors. Plaintiff denied this and there was never any independent evidence of the alleged bribery.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Snap-On contended that they fired Mr. Astorga for cause, i.e., allegedly accepting bribes from outside contractors to secure maintenance bids at the company facility.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress and damage to reputation.

  • Lost earnings.

Additional Notes

There were no offers to settle from defendant.

Per plaintiff's attorney: During discovery, Snap-On “added” to the reason he was fired and said he was soliciting bribes from vendors. The vendor denied this at his deposition (the deposition was shown at trial). The only evidence the employer had of plaintiff accepting a bribe was the testimony of plaintiff’s supervisor and the company comptroller who said the vendor had admitted it to them. Neither the supervisor nor the comptroller appeared credible at trial, giving a variety of different versions of how this alleged “bribery” scheme apparently worked.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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