Three whistle-blowing employees of FedEx claim unsafe airplane repairs. $8M. Los Angeles County.
Employees say they complained about unsafe aircraft repair and repairs that were signed off on but never done, and then were retaliated against.
- Case Name: Gruzalski et al. v. Federal Express Corporation et al.
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC512638 / BC589594 (consolidated)
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, October 19, 2018
- Type of Action: Employment, Whistleblower, Wrongful Termination
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Victor E. Chavez
- Plaintiffs: Mark Collins, 60, manager.Brian Gruzalski, 50, aircraft mechanic.Stanley V. Langevin, 69, lead mechanic.
- Defendants: Federal Express Corporation
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $8,008,817
- Net Verdict or Award: $8,008,817
- Award as to each Defendant:
As to each plaintiff:
$130,000 past pain and suffering
$130,000 future pain and suffering
$2,750,000 punitive damages
$3,010,000 plaintiff's total award
$420,000 past lost earnings
$210,000 future lost earnings
$225,000 past pain and suffering
$3,800,000 punitive damages
$4,655,000 plaintiff's total award
Stanley V. Langevin
$43,817 past lost earnings
$100,000 past pain and suffering
$200,000 punitive damages
$343,817 plaintiff's total award
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 36 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 6 days.
- Jury Polls: 9-3
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Abrolat Law PC by Nancy Abrolat, El Segundo.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Federal Express Corporation by Charles W. Matheis and Jane M. Flynn, Irvine; and Frederick L. Douglas, Seth R. Jewell, Memphis, TN.
- Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Charles Mahla, economics, Sacramento.
- Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Amy Aukstikalnis, economics, Los Angeles.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
The three plaintiffs were employees of Federal Express Corporation. All three sued for retaliation after complaining of unsafe airplane repairs; Collins sued for failure to accommodate a disability.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
Gruzalski and Langevin complained of the same and retaliation for reporting unsafe airplane repair, and Collins complained of retaliation for protecting Gruzalski and Langevin from retaliation. That, in response, FedEx retaliated: terminating Gruzalski, demoting Langevin and denying Collins's promotion to senior manager.
Specifically, that Federal Express Corporation began a policy of reducing the time spent repairing its old airplanes by about one-third to increase profits. To meet the reduced repair time, FedEx management pressured the airplane mechanics to rush the repairs, the evidence showed. FedEx installed stadium-sized count-down clocks that counted down the seconds and offered management bonuses for getting the airplanes out faster. This caused FedEx's airplane mechanics to sign off on unsafe repairs and repairs that were not done.
Gruzalski and Langevin complained to management and filed alert line complaints about FedEx coercing its mechanics to overlook important safety repairs, according to the evidence. FedEx did not investigate and continued to rush the repairs.
In response to the complaints, FedEx ordered manager Mark Collins to write up the mechanics, according to the evidence. Collins testified that he objected that the write-ups were illegal retaliation. In response, FedEx told Collins that if he did not write up the mechanics, he would be written up himself. Collins responded, "Then you are going to have to write me up," which FedEx management did, he claimed.
FedEx's retaliation included directing other employees to watch Gruzalski and Langevin and submit written complaints about them. FedEx's managing director threatened Gruzalski, "that 50 angry men wanted to kick his ass, if he did not stop complaining about the unsafe repairs." Gruzalski commented, "In response to my valid complaints, FedEx wrote me up, suspended me, but the threats about the angry guys put me in fear for my life, not knowing what could happen in the parking lot."
Ultimately, FedEx terminated Gruzalski, demoted Langevin for an unprecedented three years, and denied Collins his promotion to senior manager, according to plaintiffs.
- Defendant's Contentions:
FedEx contended that it did nothing wrong, that it repaired its planes properly and that: 1) Gruzalski was properly terminated for using profanity repeatedly; 2) Langevin was properly demoted for using improper nicknames; and 3) Collins was properly rejected for promotion because the other candidate was more qualified.