The state high court cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in
limiting punitive damages to a one-to-one ratio with compensatory damages
because of McKesson Corp.’s “low degree of reprehensibility” and the “substantial
compensatory damages verdict, which included a substantial award of noneconomic
damages,” according to Business Insurance. However, the court reversed an
appeals court decision that there was insufficient evidence for a harassment
verdict against McKesson.
It remanded the case to reinstate a single $500,000
harassment award against the employer and supervisor, reinstate the jury’s
$3,000 punitive damages award against the supervisor, and modify punitive
damages award against McKesson to $1.91 million, Business Insurance said.
According to the news report, Charlene J. Roby was a
customer services worker who received favorable performance reviews during 25
years with the pharmaceutical distributor, but in 1997, she began suffering
panic attacks that made her miss work. Medication caused her to develop body
odor, while the attacks caused a nervous disorder that led to open sores.
A supervisor called Roby “disgusting” and
openly ostracized her, according to the ruling. McKesson terminated Roby in
2001, citing her absences.
She then sued McKesson and her supervisor for failure to
accommodate her medical condition, harassment, and wrongful termination, among
A jury found she was wrongfully discharged based on her
medical condition and disability, and that she had been illegally harassed and
discriminated against. The jury awarded $3.5 million in compensatory damages
and $15 million in punitive damages against McKesson. In addition, the jury
awarded $500,000 in compensatory damages and $3,000 in punitive damages against
a supervisor responsible for the harassment.