Congratulations to Attorney Christopher Gray and his client, Mr. Michael Axel, for their notable jury trial win last month in the disability discrimination case Axel v. Fields Motorcars of Florida, Inc.
A federal jury awarded nearly $4.5 million, $3.22 million of it comprising punitive damages alone, to Mr. Axel, 74, upon finding that Fields Motorcars fired him in an act of discrimination on the basis of his disability. Mr. Axel was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2010, from which he suffered tremendous pain and at one point needed to undergo a procedure to have a kidney removed. Aside from the two weeks he was absent from work to recover from this surgery, Mr. Axel’s 10-plus yearlong employment record at the Mercedes-Benz dealership showed that he’d never been disciplined and had no issue meeting nor exceeding his performance goals.
Perhaps the most incriminating evidence of employer discrimination presented in the trial was that in the months leading up to Mr. Axel’s termination, he was asked repeatedly about his cancer diagnosis and treatment while simultaneously being passed over for promotions and demoted to the role of “used car manager,” despite his being on track at the time to have his most productive year yet. Fields Motorcars fired Mr. Axel in May 2014. After deliberating, the jury reached a verdict that Mr. Axel was fired because of his disability, in violation of the Florida Human Rights Act, resolving to compensate him for his lost wages and benefits as well as damages for emotional distress.