In an issue of first impression in the Fifth Circuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals holds that Title VII’s damages cap apply on a "per party" basis rather than on "per claim."  In Black v. Pan American, the Plaintiff, Carleen Black, prevailed on her Title VII and TCHRA claims of sex discrimination and retaliation.  The jury awarded Black $3.45M in back pay and compensatory damages.  Prior to entry of judgment, the trial court reduced the jury’s award to $500,000 representing $300,000 in back pay and $200,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that the Title VII damage caps ($200,000 in this case based on the size of the employer) should be applied on a "per claim" rather than on a "per party" basis.  If the Plaintiff’s argument was accepted, her judgment would include $600,000 for capped compensatory and punitive damages rather than $200,000 because she prevailed on three capped claims.  In holding that Title VII’s damage caps apply "per party" rather than "per claim," the Court first noted that the Sixth, Seventh, Tenth and D.C. Courts of Appeals had held that caps apply per party.  The Court then examined the statute and concluded that "the plain language of Section 1981a(b)’s cap applies to each party in an action." Consequently, the Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment that capped Black’s compensatory and punitive damages at $200,000.

You can download a complete copy of the Court’s opinion in Black v. Pan American Laboratories, LLC here.

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