The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that persons who file Whistleblower claims are entitled to compensation for embarrassment, humiliation, loss of reputation, and mental anguish, also known as non-economic damages. The unanimous March 27th decision in Bailets v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission affirmed that a $1,600,000 verdict for non-economic damages was not excessive. This ruling should incentivize government employees to report wrongdoing and waste, and open the door to expanding the definition of recoverable damages in other types of lawsuits.
In Bailets, the plaintiff, a 20-year managerial employee responsible for preparing financial reports for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, had received excellent performance reviews, but was fired after complaining about waste, impropriety, and politically motivated “pay-to-play” actions of the Commission. The Commonwealth Court entered a verdict in favor of Bailets and against the Commonwealth, awarding $3.2 million in damages, including $1.6 million in economic damages, i.e. past and future wage loss, and $1.6 million for non-economic damages, i.e. his mental and emotional suffering.
The Turnpike Commission appealed, insisting it was not liable for non-economic damages because the Whistleblower Law states the agency is only liable for “actual damages.” The Supreme Court disagreed, explaining that the overriding purpose of the law is that a whistleblower be put in “no worse a position for having reported the wrongdoing.” The Court refused to interpret the phrase “actual damages” to exclude damages for humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish, noting that “if no recovery for such items of loss are available, a whistleblower cannot be made whole.” This ruling further affirms that plaintiffs are entitled to compensation for more than just the bare amount to cover their bills or lost wages.
If you have been wrongfully terminated based on your age, sex, race, or other discriminatory factors, or in retaliation, call our office at 610-446-3457 to set up a consultation with our attorneys. We also handle all types of personal injury matters, and will fight to get you compensated for economic damages and your pain and suffering. We can guide you through the process, and advise you about what you should expect and consider when pursuing your claim.