November 28, 2002
Pocono Record Writer
A federal appeals court has upheld an award of $2.3 million to an East Stroudsburg woman who claimed she was fired by Aventis Pasteur because she had multiple sclerosis.
The United States Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against Aventis Pasteur and upheld a lower court ruling awarding Jane A. Gagliardo $2 million in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act, $104,243 in attorney's fees and $14,234 in other expenses.
Gagliardo worked at the company from 1987 to 1996 when the company was called Connaught Laboratories.
"Garliardo's life began to change" when she contracted MS, the court said.
The appeals court said her supervisor Judith Stout found Gagliardo's work "poor" despite the fact that Gagliardo asked that military orders be taken away from her so she could work with her MS handicap.
Gagliardo was fired on May 29, 1996, after the company refused to accommodate her handicap so she could continue her employment, the court said.
A jury found for Gagliardo in September of 2000, awarding her $2 million compensation and $500,000 in punitive damages, plus lawyer's fees.
The court ruled Gagliardo proved she was limited in her ability to concentrate and remember, making her "disabled" under the law.
The appeal panel stated that the lower court trial proved Connaught's "reckless indifference" toward Gagliardo's disability. "She produced evidence that she requested accommodation" many times "and Connaught refused to act on her requests."
Gagliardo was "transformed from a happy confident person to one who was withdrawn and indecisive," and so was eligible for an award for pain and suffering caused by Connaught's failure to help her perform her job.
In her suit Gagliardo also accused the company of fabricating reasons for her dismissal.
Multiple sclerosis is a disorder of the central nervous system, involving decreased nerve function caused by the formation of scars on the covering of nerve cells.
"You don't work for a company for 10 years, get commendations two and three times a year, then get a new boss in February and get fired in May," Gagliardo said after the trial. "I worked very hard for that company, and what they did to me was not only wrong, it was illegal. My goal is to make them think twice before they do it to someone else."
Gagliardo was represented by attorney Patrick Reilly of Allentown.
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