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Appeals Court Upholds $250,000 Damage Award in Federal Worker's Civil Rights Case, Expert Testimony Not Required to Corroborate Claim of Emotional Distress

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the award of $250,001 to Russell Bolden, who was discharged from his position at Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, for refusing to take a drug test. Bolden had originally won a judgment against SEPTA for violation of his civil rights, but his damage award had been reversed in a previous appeal. The case was remanded, a jury found in his favor, and the judge entered judgment on the jury's findings.

In the current appeal, SEPTA had argued that expert testimony was required for recovery for emotional distress in a federal civil rights action, but the court held that such expert testimony was not necessary, and that the award of $250,000 was supported by the record.

Bolden had alleged that SEPTA's unconstitutional drug testing program branded him a drug abuser, and that he suffered severe emotional distress as a result. According to the court, his "lay witnesses gave testimony about his reaction to this branding from which the jury could have concluded that it left Bolden a broken man." The court noted that "All of the court of appeals that have expressly ... dispensed with a requirement of expert testimony to corroborate a claim for emotional distress..." See: Russell Bolden v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 21 F.3d. 29, (3rd Cir., 1994).

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Related legal case

Russell Bolden v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority