REBECCA MCCARTHY VS. CARE ONE MANAGEMENT, LLC (L-8657-16, BERGEN COUNTY AND STATEWIDE)

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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court ." Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3. SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION DOCKET NO. A-2542-19 REBECCA MCCARTHY, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. CARE ONE MANAGEMENT, LLC, and ALISON FITZPATRICK-DURSKI, Defendants-Appellants. ___________________________ Argued May 10, 2021 – Decided July 12, 2021 Before Judges Rothstadt and Mayer. On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-8657-16. Bruce H. Nagel and Thomas P. Scrivo argued the cause for appellants (Nagel Rice, LLP, Fisher & Phillips, LLP, and O'Toole Scrivo, LLC, attorneys; Bruce H. Nagel, Robert H. Solomon, Brian Gershengorn, and Christopher J. Capone, of counsel and on the briefs; Thomas P. Scrivo, on the brief). Paul Castronovo and Thomas A. McKinney argued the cause for respondent (Castronovo & McKinney, LLC, attorneys; Thomas A. McKinney, Paul Castronovo, and Edward W. Schroll, of counsel and on the brief). PER CURIAM A jury found that defendant Care One Management, LLC (Care One) and one of its managers, defendant Alison Fitzpatrick-Durski, violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49, and it awarded plaintiff Rebecca McCarthy compensatory and punitive damages.1 The trial court also awarded counsel fees. The total judgment entered against defendants approximated six million dollars. Defendants appeal from the judgment entered on the verdicts and argue the award of punitive damages must be vacated for several reasons, including the insufficiency of the evidence of liability or damages; the verdict was the result of the jury's confusion or mistake; and the trial court erred by denying their motions for directed verdicts or judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or for a new trial and by awarding counsel fees. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the award of compensatory damages, but vacate the award of punitive damages and counsel fees and remand for a new trial on punitive damages only and reconsideration of the counsel fee award. 1 Plaintiff only sought and recovered punitive damages from Care One, not Fitzpatrick-Durski. A-2542-19 2 I. The facts developed at trial leading to Care One's termination of plaintiff's employment are summarized as follows. Plaintiff, a Black woman, holds a Master of Science degree in nursing, is a registered nurse, a board-certified geriatric nurse, a certified director of nursing, and a certified resident assessment coordinator. At the time of trial, she had worked in the nursing field for twenty- three years and served as a nursing director at several facilities . She testified that before Care One terminated her, she planned to work for "something like" ten more years and expected to earn no less than $222,000 annually. In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that Care One terminated her employment on the basis of her race in violation of the LAD and that Fitzpatrick- Durski aided and abetted Care …

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