Assembly worker's carpal tunnel syndrome is no longer accommodated. $500,000. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Plaintiff's accommodation for carpal tunnel syndrome is ignored by new supervisor after the accommodation was in place for five years. Motion for $3.5 million in attorney fees is pending.

The Case

  • Case Name: Maggy Huerta v. Pacesetter, Inc., dba St. Jude Medical
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC526645
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, August 20, 2015
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, November 05, 2013
  • Type of Action: Employment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Stephanie Bowick
  • Plaintiffs:
    Maggy Huerta, 62, assembler.
  • Defendants:
    Pacesetter, Inc., dba St. Jude Medical
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $500,000
  • Net Verdict or Award: $500,000; attorney fee motion pending.
  • Economic Damages:

    $378,364

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $25,000

  • Punitive Damages:

    $96,636

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 9 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 days.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for New Trial and Motion for JNOV both denied.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Alder Law by Mike Alder and Marni Folinsky, Los Angeles.

    Factum Law Group by Frank Alfonso, Pasadena.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    DLA Piper by Maria Rodriguez and Rachel Cowen, Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Anthony Reading, Ph.D., psychology, Beverly Hills.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Mitchel Silverman, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Los Angeles.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Timothy Lanning, Ph.D., economics, Los Angeles.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Sonya Kwon, M.B.A., economics, Los Angeles.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff worked as an assembler for defendant Pacesetter at their Sylmar facility for almost 23 years: from 3/20/1990 through her termination on 12/10/2012. This facility manufactures implantable medical devices including pacemakers and the so-called “cardiac leads.”  Over the years, plaintiff developed carpal tunnel syndrome which eventually led to work restrictions. Defendant alleged it could not accommodate plaintiff's restrictions.

    As early as 2002, plaintiff began experiencing problems with her hands. In 2006 the pain, which plaintiff claimed was caused by prolonged work duties, required an accommodation in the form of restricting those particular activities. At that time plaintiff’s “Mild Clinical CTS [carpal tunnel syndrome]” was accommodated indefinitely, as for the next five years plaintiff was assigned to tasks that she could perform without injury.

    During this 5-year period, plaintiff was not required to rotate into, or cross-train on, job functions that caused her injury.

    This was the status quo until November 2011, when a new supervisor required plaintiff to again do tasks not performed since her injury in 2006. By November 14, 2011, the return to those activities aggravated plaintiff’s carpal tunnel to the point that she required time off work, steroid injections and physical therapy.  

     

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff alleged disability discrimination, harassment, failure to engage in the interactive process, and failure to accommodate.

    That defendants were unable to provide an explanation as to why plaintiff was not simply returned to the status quo: i.e., the tasks she had been doing for the previous 5 years, without injury, on an indefinite basis, as before. 

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendants argued to the jury that they could not accommodate plaintiff’s restrictions.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Plaintiff alleged past and future economic and past and future non-economic damages.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $1,250,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $100,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiff's attorney fee motion requesting $3,500,000 currently pending.

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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