Legal Roundup: Award Damages Ruled ‘Excessive,’ Tesla to Continue Civil Rights Suit and More

A Tesla suit on employee discrimination is set to continue after Tesla's countersuit failed.
By: | January 21, 2023

Florida Supreme Court: $16 Million Award Was “Excessive”

The Case: After 52-year old Lois Stucky died of lung cancer, her family sued RJ Reynolds for punitive and compensatory damages.

An Orange County, Florida jury awarded the family $16 million in punitive damages and $300,000 in compensatory damages. After the 5th District court overturned the award, the case went before the state Supreme Court, according to Yahoo! News.

Scorecard: In a 5-1 ruling, the Florida Supreme Court justices “said the punitive damages award to the estate of Lois Stucky was ‘excessive,’ ” according to Yahoo! News. The $300,000 compensatory award was reduced to a $150,000 payout for Stucky’s adult children.

Takeaway: The Supreme Court opinion stated that “state law ‘requires a reasonable relationship between punitive damages and the number of damages proved and the injury suffered,’ ” reported Yahoo! News. The case goes back to the circuit court for further proceedings.

Google’s Antitrust Fight Against DOJ in Federal Court

The Case: In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice and 11 states filed a federal antitrust suit against Google parent Alphabet.

The DOJ “alleged that Google violated antitrust law in how it maintained dominance in search and search advertising,” according to Reuters. The DOJ wrote that Google paid billions of dollars “annually to Apple, LG Electronics Inc and others to ensure that Google search was the default on their devices.”

Scorecard: Google has filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss the case.

Takeaway: The search giant argues that “agreements it made with Apple and others to make Google the default search engine do not bar smartphone makers from promoting rivals,” according to Reuters.

Google said its search engine is popular “entirely because of its quality.” Alphabet also asked that another antitrust complaint brought by 35 states be dismissed.

Tesla Must Continue Its Civil Rights Battle

The Case: California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Tesla following allegations that some Black employees experienced discrimination at its Fremont plant, including segregation, slurs, and assignments to “the most physically demanding jobs,” according to Reuters.

Workers referred to the facility as “the slaveship” and “the plantation,” according to the filing.

Tesla asked California Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo to dismiss the case; when that motion was denied, Tesla countersued, claiming “the agency did not notify the company of the bias allegations or give it a chance to settle,” according to Reuters.

Scorecard: Judge Grillo has rejected Tesla’s countersuit.

Takeaway: The electric automaker now has until February 3 “to file an amended complaint fleshing out its claim that the agency has adopted ‘underground regulations’ to flout the requirements it must meet before filing lawsuits,” according to Reuters.

Tesla denies wrongdoing.

Additional racial and sexual discrimination suits against Tesla are pending in California courts.

Oil Driller Challenges Los Angeles Ban

The Case: Warren Resources, which operates 244 oil wells in the Los Angeles area, is suing the city in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The company seeks to block a new ordinance which bans new oil and gas drilling in Los Angeles. The ordinance also phases out existing operations within the next 20 years, according to the Associated Press.

“The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously for the measure last year following more than a decade of complaints from residents that pollution drifting from wells was affecting their health.” Warren says the new law would effectively shut it down. It also “accused the city of failing to conduct a proper environmental review of the measure,” according to the AP.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: “Four other oil entities also sued the city over the ordinance on Tuesday in a separate lawsuit,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

“Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling, or STAND-L.A., a group of community groups, helped rally support for the ordinance in recent years by highlighting the low-income communities of color that are particularly affected by LA’s wells.” &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].

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