Use of ‘Caps’ To Apportion Individual Defendants’ Joint and Several Liability Permitted in Employment Discrimination Action

On April 1, 2016, the United States Court for the District of Connecticut entered judgment on a jury verdict in Bakhit, et. al. v. Safety Markings, Inc. et. al., 3:13-CV-1049, an employment discrimination case, awarding the two plaintiffs a total of $3.4 million in compensatory and punitive damages on claims for race discrimination and hostile work environment under the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Interestingly, this damages award was imposed using a hybrid of joint and several liability and apportionment. As background, when defendants are held jointly and severally liable for damages, the prevailing party may collect all, or any part, of the entire damage award from either defendant. On the other hand, when a damage award is apportioned, the prevailing party may collect from any given defendant only the specific dollar amount of damage apportioned to that defendant. In Bakhit, the award of compensatory damages on the plaintiffs’ respective hostile work environment claims was entered jointly and severally against both the company and certain individual defendants found to have engaged in unlawful conduct. However, the jury imposed “caps” on the individuals’ joint and several liability, finding that of the total damages award, only a certain amount could be collected from any individual defendant.