Court of Appeals Affirms Jury Verdict Awarding Only Nominal Damages

On June 28, 2012, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided Ivey v. District of Columbia, No. 09-CV-1511, slip op. (D.C. June 28, 2012) in which it was called upon to review a jury verdict awarding only nominal damages for employment-related claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act. The plaintiff-appellant, who had sought compensatory damages for emotional distress, requested the Court of Appeals to order a new trial on damages. She argued that the trial court erred in deciding not to reinstruct the jury on compensatory damages after receiving a note from the jury acknowledging that it had been instructed not to speculate as to damages and stating that it could not determine damages without speculating. The plaintiff-appellant also argued that the trial court erred in making several evidentiary rulings. The Court of Appeals ultimately did not decide the merits of any of the plaintiff-appellant’s arguments. It ruled that the plaintiff-appellant failed to show that she was prejudiced by the trial court’s decision not to reinstruct the jury because she had failed (perhaps due to oversight) to identify any part of the trial record indicating that she had presented to the jury evidence of injury. The Court of Appeals likewise rejected the plaintiff-appellant’s challenges to the trial court’s evidentiary rulings on the grounds that any errors with respect to those rulings were harmless because none of the rulings directly concerned evidence of damages.