$1.4 Million More Ends Case Against Pfizer

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Pfizer is on the hook for $1.4 million in damages and legal fees in an employment discrimination case in Oregon, a federal magistrate ruled.
     Kimberly Arnold sued Pfizer in 2010 for disability discrimination, retaliation and violation of state employment laws.
     Arnold, a sales representative, claimed she was hit by a FedEx delivery truck while driving on the job in 2005.
     She said she returned to work in 2007 and was fired in 2009, before she told her bosses she had been diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder, for which she required prescription medication.
     She said Pfizer did not give her a car with an automatic lift gate to accommodate her disability after the FedEx collision, nor did it offer her a light duty position or place her on state medical leave.
     “I had no choice but to go back full time or lose my job,” Arnold said in her complaint.
     “I was not able to give work my all because of my pain problem and all the drugs I’m on,” she separately told attorney Steve Piucci via email.
     A jury in 2014 awarded Arnold $2.7 million in damages, but reduced it because she continued to use sedating medication without informing Pfizer, violating company policy.
     The final total: $675,165 in economic damages, plus $500,000 in emotional distress damages.
     Arnold filed a motion for a proposed judgment in February, seeking prejudgment interest at Oregon’s statutory rate of 9 percent rather than the substantially lower federal post-judgment interest rate. She also sought prejudgment interest at the Oregon rate for her emotional distress damages.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta granted the request in part in March.
     He granted the interest request for the federal rate on economic damages award from Aug. 1, 2009, the first full month after her termination, to Jan. 31, 2014, the last full month before Pfizer discovered she used sedating medication.
     “The court finds that Arnold has not demonstrated substantial evidence sufficient to require application of Oregon statutory rate of 9 percent,” Acosta wrote. “Although Arnold argues that the Oregon rate is applicable because she prevailed on her state law claims, Arnold also prevailed on her federal ADA claims. More importantly, the jury did not allocate damages based on violations of state or federal law. This provides the court with no basis upon which to conclude that Arnold’s economic damages were based exclusively on state law.”
     Acosta found it “impossible to discern” whether the jury’s verdict was premised on state or federal law, “as the claims were substantively identical and the verdict did not distinguish between them.”
     Acosta granted Arnold’s request for prejudgment interest on emotional distress damages.
     This week, Acosta separately ruled that Pfizer owed $428,469 for attorney fees, $24,851 for litigation expenses and costs, and $28,157 in other costs.
     Pfizer argued that a lodestar amount, used to calculate attorney fees, should be reduce to reflect the jury’s reduction of Arnold’s award because she continued to take pain medication.
     “The court has reviewed Arnold’s requested expenses and costs and finds them reasonable and necessary for Arnold’s successful prosecution of this case,” Acosta wrote on Wednesday.
     Pfizer and Piucci did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
     Arnold had asked for 482,589 in attorney fees, plus $53,008 in costs and expenses.

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