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Jackson v. Kleen 1, LLC

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

December 20, 2017

Delroy Jackson, Appellant,
v.
Kleen 1, LLC, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 15-12643, William Thomas, Judge.

          Remer & Georges-Pierre, Jason S. Remer and Tyler A. Stull, for appellant.

          Michael A. Pancier (Pembroke Pines), for appellee.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and LAGOA and EMAS, JJ.

          EMAS, J.

         Delroy Jackson, the plaintiff below, appeals the final judgment rendered in accordance with the motion for directed verdict filed by his former employer, Kleen 1, LLC, the defendant below. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Jackson was employed by Kleen 1 for less than one week. A few days into his employment, Jackson alleges that his supervisor made several discriminatory racial comments toward him, [1] and when Jackson later reported this behavior to Kleen 1's vice president, he was fired. Jackson also contends that while working for Kleen 1, he was given a disproportionate amount of duties compared to other non-black or non-Jamaican employees.

         Jackson filed a lawsuit against Kleen 1, alleging three separate violations of Florida's Civil Rights Act:[2] racial discrimination (Count I); national origin discrimination (Count II); and retaliatory discharge (Count III). All three claims were tried before a jury. Jackson sought damages for lost wages and for emotional pain and mental anguish.

         At trial, Jackson testified that when his supervisor made the discriminatory racial comments toward him he felt "very bad" and "angry, mad." Jackson introduced no evidence or testimony as to how he felt after Kleen 1 terminated him some three days after the discriminatory racial comments were made.

         At the close of Jackson's case, Kleen 1 moved for a directed verdict, asserting Jackson had failed to present sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case. The court reserved ruling on the motion. Thereafter, the jury returned a verdict, finding in favor of Kleen 1 on the racial and national origin discrimination claims (Counts I and II), but found in favor of Jackson on his retaliatory discharge claim (Count III). The jury awarded no damages to Jackson for lost wages, but awarded him $8, 500 for emotional pain and mental anguish.

         Kleen 1 renewed its motion for directed verdict as to the retaliatory discharge claim, asserting Jackson's testimony was untrustworthy and uncorroborated. Further, Kleen 1 contended there was no evidence to support an award of $8, 500 for emotional pain or mental anguish, especially given that the sole evidence was Jackson's testimony that he "felt bad" when the discriminatory racial comments were made.

         After a hearing, the trial court agreed that the jury found a retaliatory purpose behind Jackson's termination, but determined there was insufficient evidence to support the damages award for emotional pain and mental anguish. Jackson's counsel agreed that there was not an "abundance" of evidence, but that his client did testify that he felt bad, and argued this was sufficient to support the $8, 500 award. Nonetheless, the trial court granted Kleen 1's motion to enter judgment ...


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