Walmart pharmacist claims retaliation, wrongful termination. $27.5M.
Walmart pharmacist complains of illegal practices by Walmart in its pharmacy, claims she was retaliated against and fired. Walmart says she quit for another job.
- Case Name: Afrouz Nikmanesh v. Walmart Stores
- Court and Case Number: USDC - Central District of California / 8:15-cv-00202-JGB - JCG
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, September 03, 2021
- Date Action was Filed: Monday, December 08, 2014
- Type of Action: Wrongful Termination
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Jesus Bernal
- Plaintiffs: Afrouz Nikmanesh, 53
- Defendants: Wal-Mart Stores, IncWal-Mart Associates, Inc.
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $27,500,100
- Award as to each Defendant:
Against Walmart: The ruling includes $40,000 for economic losses; $100,000 for non-economic losses; $60,000 for future non-economic losses; and $27.3 million in punitive damages.
The jury of eight unanimously found that Ms. Nikmanesh’s reporting of Walmart’s overcharging Medicare customers over the age of 65 and persons under the age of 65 with disabilities for their medications and not properly reporting the dispensement of controlled substances to the Department of Justice under the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System program was a substantial motivating reason for Walmart’s decision to retaliate against and discharge her.
- Economic Damages:
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Punitive Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days
- Jury Deliberation Time: 6 hours
- Jury Polls: 8-0
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Wal-Mart will be making a motion to reduce punitive award/vacate judgment; plaintiff will seek attorneys' fees and costs.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Eric M. Epstein, APC by Eric M. Epstein, Los Angeles.
Parcells Law Firm by Dayton B. Parcells, III, Los Angeles.
Thierman Buck by Mark Thierman and Josh Buck, Reno, NV.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Burke Williams & Sorensen LLP by Susan Coleman, Cheryl Johnson-Hartwell and Susan V. Arduengo, Los Angeles.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Plaintiff worked for Walmart for more than 10 years as a pharmacist. During her employment she complained about numerous violations of law that Walmart was engaging in, including, but not limited to, failing to give customers over the age of 65 or with disabilities and who were on Medicare but did not have Part D drug coverage, the discounted price to which they were legally entitled for prescription drugs, and failing to properly disclose to the Department of Justice the dispensing of controlled substances, especially opioids.
Nikmanesh said Walmart failed to report necessary data to the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, otherwise known as the CURES program, a database of controlled substance prescriptions dispensed throughout California, which requires pharmacists to file weekly reports with the California Department of Justice.
She reported these violations to her supervisors sometime between July 2013 and September 2014 and asked that they investigate and correct the various compliance issues.
Walmart fired Nikmanesh in September 2014, which she claims was solely in retaliation for her complaining about their non-compliance with state laws.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That after the retaliation began, plaintiff then looked for another job and was offered a full-time position with the California State Board of Pharmacy. She advised her supervisor of the offer and said she would only formally accept it if she could remain employed by Walmart on a part-time basis as a "floater" because the State Board job paid $40,000 a year less. Her Walmart supervisor told her she could remain as a floater on a part-time basis. Plaintiff then formally accepted the State Board job. After she formally accepted the State Board job, Walmart then told her she could not remain as a floater and her employment was terminated. After her termination, plaintiff learned that there were at least two floater positions available.
Plaintiff contended that the issues she complained of were never fixed during her employment, or even thereafter. As a result of her complaints, plaintiff alleges she was retaliated against, by, inter alia, not receiving a bonus to which she was entitled, and receiving a poor evaluation.
- Defendant's Contentions:
Walmart contended that plaintiff was not fired, but resigned her employment to accept another full-time position and their were no "floater"positions available. Walmart further contended that they had timely addressed plaintiff's complaints.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $64,000 (approx)