Eastern District Judge Jack Weinstein upheld a jury verdict of bias against a lesbian UPS worker this past week, in Roberts v. United Parcel Service, 13-CV-6161. The decision is instructive to trial lawyers because it displays each side’s creative and potentially potent case theory. The decision also cites part of the cross examination by the plaintiff’s attorney, which shows an excellent use of theory-driven cross set up by a skillful deposition.
It’s clear from the decision that there were two competing case theories. UPS’s theory of defense was that the remarks made by plaintiff’s supervisor were merely the supervisor’s expression of his own religious beliefs and not directed at plaintiff (e.g., saying “homosexuality is a sin” even to a lesbian is his right to freedom of expression). Hence, UPS utilized different freedoms – freedom of expression, freedom of religion – to fight the plaintiff’s freedom from discrimination in the workplace claim. The defense witnesses testified that the remarks may have been “inappropriate” but not “discriminatory.”
Plaintiff Roberts, on the other hand, needed to show that the religious opinions of the UPS supervisor were actually directed at her, to avoid being viewed by the jury as overly sensitive and ready to imagine an attack. Her attorneys cleverly cast her supervisor as a religious fanatic. Thus, her testimony at trial used emotionally charged language - “religious rants” vs. “religious expression” – to change the prism in which the jury could view the case. Plaintiff needed to cast her supervisor as unbalanced so that the jury could see the comments as an evangelical attempt to “save” her from her sexual orientation.
The jury awarded $100,000.00 total for compensatory and punitive damages. That the amount was so reasonable could be a testament to UPS’s case theory. But it’s a pleasure to see a case so well crafted on both sides.
Here at TSI, we can help you craft a potent offense or defense, using our specially honed method of creating a case theory, and assisting you in crafting theory driven depositions and trial testimony.