U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey yesterday set aside an $80,000 jury award in an assault case, saying the jury "obviously overlooked and disregarded both the evidence and the law" in reaching its decision.
He said that the jury must have reached its conclusion because the plaintiff in the case "was a good witness who aroused sympathy. However, sympathetic justice does not provide the basis for a claim of liability."
Richey's ruling came in a case brought by Halbert D. Brooks, a supervisor for the Washington Terminal Co., who contended in his suit that he was assaulted by a former employee of the firm. The employee, Sarly Garnett, assaulted Brooks with a railroad tool after Brooks had reprimanded him for sleeping on the job, the Court was told.
Brooks said in his suit that the Washington Terminal Co. was negligent in its hiring of Garentt and that the company was liable for the assault.
Richey said in his opinion issued yesterday that he should have dismissed the case before it even reached the jury, and that the only remedy now was to set aside the veredict that was reached on Oct. 20. He said some of the plaintiff's arguments were "sheer nonsense" and that there was not enough evidence to "even an inference" that the firm was liable for the assault.
"The only act which Mr. Garnett could have done which would have been in 'furtherance of the work of the employer's business' was to comply with the plaintiff's roders and punch his card out - not punch out his foreman," Richey said.