Wal-Mart loses $31 Million Jury Verdict

Wal-Mart PharmacyAre your FDA approved drug prescriptions being properly filled at Wal-Mart? A Wal-Mart pharmacist who sounded the alarm on the subject was dismissed by Wal-Mart. She sued the company and had her day in court this week. The result was a $31 million jury verdict for the woman. But don’t despair, tort deformers, with Wal-Mart’s deep pockets and far-reaching legal power, the woman is unlikely to ever see a dime from the suit.

Pharmacist reported Prescription Drug Problems

A New Hampshire pharmacist was awarded $31 million this week by a jury that agreed the woman had been wrongly dismissed by the retail giant. The federal jury agreed with the woman’s attorneys that she was fired for reasons of gender and also in retaliation for her having brought complaints of unsafe prescription-filling practices to her superiors.

On Jan. 27, after a five-day trial, the Concord,  N.H. jury deliberated for 2-1/2 hours before ruling  for the Plaintiff, Maureen McPadden.

Woman but not Man fired for Lost Key

Ms. McPadden, 51, was a 13-year Wal-Mart employee in 2012 when she lost a pharmacy key. She testified Wal-Mart used that lost key as pretext for firing her in November that year.

The Plaintiff testified that the real reason she was fired from the Seabrook, New Hampshire store was for her having raised concerns that prescriptions were being improperly filled due to poor staff training.

Ms. McPadden also charged that her gender played a role in her termination. She said Wal-Mart later disciplined but did not fire a male pharmacist in the state who lost a pharmacy key just as she had. .

Most of the monetary damages stemmed from Wal-Mart’s gender bias in the case; the jury awarded punitive damages of $15 million.

Wal-Mart loses $31 Million Jury Verdict

imagesThe retail giant Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, announced it will request that trial Judge Steven McAuliffe throw out the verdict or reduce the award.

Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove echoed the company’s defense throughout the trial: “The facts do not support this decision. We do not tolerate discrimination of any type, and neither that nor any concerns that Ms. McPadden raised about her store’s pharmacy played a role in her dismissal.”

The case is McPadden v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP, U.S. District Court, District of New Hampshire, No. 14-00475.

Wal-Mart Gender Bias denied by Supreme Court

This isn’t the first trial in which Wal-Mart has been accused of gender bias. In a judgment with far-reaching implications, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 threw out a class action lawsuit brought by thousands of woman who claimed gender bias against the discount giant. In a standard 5-4 decision along party lines (Wal-Mart v. Dukes), the highest court dismissed the women’s arguments that the retail giant systematically underpaid and underpromoted them. That ruling upended decades of employment discrimination law and has since insulated many corporations from employment case lawsuits.

ProPublica pointed out in 2011 that large employers rejoiced in the women’s defeat. “Others predicted serious setbacks for women and minorities, especially in employment discrimination cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That landmark law had opened the way to the use of the class-action lawsuit as a potent weapon for people who could not stand up for their rights on their own.”

Employment cases for women and minorities have become nearly impossible to pursue since.

In just two years, the Wal-Mart v. Dukes 5-4 divide was cited more than 1,200 times in rulings by federal and state courts.

“Jury verdicts have been overturned, settlements thrown out, class actions rejected or decertified, in many instances undoing years of litigation,” ProPublica wrote.

Time will tell if Ms. McPadden’s jury verdict will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The extreme five on the Roberts’ court have rarely seen a big business case they didn’t want to hear; so Ms. McPadden should not hold her breath waiting to be paid by Wal-Mart. A living wage is not the only thing that Wal-Mart has always refused to pay.

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