Retaliation Merits Punitive Award
A truck driver for a wholesale-food delivery business was fired after returning from workers' compensation leave. He successfully sued his former employer for retaliatory discharge and obtained an award of compensatory damages as well as nearly $950,000 in punitive damages. The Alabama Supreme Court held the fact that a plaintiff earns more annually in a job following a wrongful termination does not preclude a recovery for lost future earnings based on annual income as a matter of law. The court also found sufficient evidence of mental anguish existed to support the amount of compensatory damages awarded. As to the punitive damage award, the employer's conduct in firing him the morning he expected to return to work by telling him he was no longer needed was sufficiently reprehensible to support an award of punitive damages. The court also deemed the 3:1 ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages to be reasonable.