A Fayette County judge denied permission Friday for a UPS attorney to contact jurors who awarded $5.3 million to eight former and current employees over a hostile work environment at the company’s Lexington hub.
“We’re kind of protective of our jurors around here,” Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone said before denying a motion sought by Richard Moore, a UPS attorney.
The jury’s verdict was returned last week. The jury was instructed to find a hostile work environment only if the eight men, who are all black, had been subjected to racial harassment at UPS and if the harassment “was severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive.”
An effigy of a black UPS driver was hung from a ceiling for four days, according to trial testimony and evidence. There also was testimony about racially hostile words used at the office.
The jury also found that UPS had retaliated against two employees when they complained about racial issues.
Friday’s UPS motion sought the judge’s permission to contact jurors “to discuss the case and, in an effort to continually improve its business, better understand ways it can manage its business better.”
Fayette Circuit Court rules allow jurors to be contacted after trial, with a judge’s permission, if “good cause” can be shown to do so. But Scorsone said such action is rare.
The judge said he allowed it once when someone conducted university research. He said he also has allowed it after a mistrial, when the opposing parties were figuring out whether to seek a new trial.
But Scorsone told Moore, “Your motion doesn’t really give me a compelling reason.”
Moore said interviewing the jurors would allow “a postmortem to figure out what exactly we did or didn’t do in the presentation of the case that affected the jury in its decision-making process.”
Stephen Amato, an attorney for the eight men awarded the $5.3 million, said the motion didn’t cite any “good cause” for interviewing the jurors.
A final judgment has not been entered yet as the plaintiffs’ attorneys prepare a post-verdict motion for legal fees, Amato said.
“We don’t think there are any grounds to go over and reach out to the jury” before final judgment is entered, Amato said.
Scorsone said it’s natural to be curious about how people reach their conclusions.
“But it’s also possible that jurors can see that as a little bit of intimidation, and it might make them apprehensive in terms of jury service if they feel like they have to be probed about their decisions,” Scorsone said. “At this juncture, I don’t think there’s any justification for this inquiry of the jurors.”
Moore had no comment after the motion was heard.
Amato said afterward that he hasn’t been involved in any case in which jurors were contacted or interrogated after trial.
“We were gratified that the court declined to subject these jurors to an interrogation,” Amato said. “If UPS wants to know why or how to better their business, then what they need to do is listen to our plaintiffs and fix the way they treat their employees.”