Trooper Jerry Brand works for the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. When he was transferred from Guilford County to Durham County, Brand filed a race discrimination lawsuit, alleging that his transfer was in retaliation for his raising a complaint of racial discrimination.
A jury awarded Brand $63,000 on his retaliation claim, finding that his transfer to Durham County was, in fact, race discrimination. The State then filed a motion to overturn the verdict, taking the position that there was no evidence that the Commandant of the State Police, Colonel R.W. Holden, was motivated by racial discrimination in deciding to transfer Brand.
The Court rejected the State’s attempt to overturn the jury verdict. The Court pointed to testimony by Holden why he did not believe Trooper Brand had the confidence of his sergeant. In answering a question along these lines, Holden testified: “That was based on information that I got that he had filed, that he had thought he was being discriminated against. It was obvious to me, that if you felt like someone was discriminating against you, you wouldn’t have total confidence in them, so I didn’t want it to be a situation that certainly got out of hand, and I felt like he would be better in a different location.”
The State argued that the only reasonable interpretation of this testimony was that Holden considered Brand’s complaint a statement of his dissatisfaction in his district. The Court observed though, “while this may be one possible interpretation of Colonel Holden’s testimony, the jury accepted the more reasonable interpretation that Trooper Brand was transferred because he had filed a complaint of racial discrimination.”
The State also argued that the jury’s award of $63,000 was unreasonably disproportionate to the harm that Brand suffered. Since Brand did not move his residence upon the transfer, he had the expenses of an additional residence as well as the cost of commuting back to Guilford County where his family continued to live. In addition to these out-of-pocket expenses, the evidence showed that Brand and his family had lived in Guilford County since 1992, that Brand and his wife had a son who attends school and is involved in activities in Guilford County including football, playing the violin, and martial arts. Mrs. Brand has a job in Guilford County and is attending graduate school in the area.
All of this, the Court observed, easily presented “adequate evidence” of damages to support the jury’s award of $63,000.
Brand v. North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, 2005 WL 1799895 (M.D.N.C. 2005).
This article appears in the September 2005 issue