Legal Memorandum: Emotional Distress Damages in LA

Issue: What is the range and factors that affect jury verdict recoveries for emotional distress in the 5th Circuit.

Area of Law: Employee Law
Keywords: Damages; Emotional distress
Jurisdiction: Louisiana
Cited Cases: 90 F.3d 927; 135 F.3d 1041; 91 F.3d 769
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 09/01/2010

Forsyth v. City of Dallas, 91 F.3d 769, 773 (5th Cir. 1996), suggests a claim for $75,000 to $100,000 in emotional distress damages.  The plaintiffs in Forsyth were awarded both past and future emotional distress damages.  See Forsyth, 91 F.3d at 773.

Setting Forsyth aside, there is ample authority in the Fifth Circuit to justify an award of emotional distress damages for an unlawful termination.  To establish a claim for emotional distress damages, a plaintiff must show proof of actual injury caused by the termination, which may be manifested by “sleeplessness, anxiety, stress, depression, marital strain, humiliation, emotional distress, loss of self esteem, excessive fatigue, or a nervous breakdown.”  Patterson v. P.H.P. Healthcare Corp., 90 F.3d 927, 939 (5th Cir. 1996).  In addition, “[p]hysical manifestations of emotional harm may consist of ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders, hair loss, or headaches.”  Id.  Medical evidence is often required to show “some specific discernable injury,” id. at 940, but a plaintiff’s testimony may suffice if it is sufficiently credible.  See Migis v. Pearle Vision, 135 F.3d 1041 (5th Cir. 1998) (district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding emotional distress damages based solely on the plaintiff’s testimony). 

Migis v. Pearle Vision, 135 F.3d 1041 (5th Cir. 1998).
         In a case decided in the Northern District of Texas, the plaintiff successfully sued her employer for pregnancy discrimination under Title VII when her position was terminated while on maternity leave […]

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