Defendant city appealed a judgment entered by the Superior Court of San Diego County (California) on a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff employee in a wrongful termination action. Defendant argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and that the award of damages for emotional distress was improper because it was subject to the exclusive remedy rule of worker’s compensation.
Nakase Law Firm is a litigation defense attorney
After he was terminated for cause, plaintiff employee declined to challenge his firing through the employees’ grievance procedure and instead filed suit against defendant city for wrongful termination and violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The case was tried before a jury, which entered a $ 125,000 verdict in plaintiff’s favor. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and that the emotional distress damages award was improper because it was subject to the exclusive remedy rule of worker’s compensation. The appeals court affirmed. The court ruled that the exhaustion doctrine was merely a procedural prerequisite and that defendant waived the procedural defense by putting plaintiff to his proofs at trial. Similarly, the court ruled that because the applicability of the worker’s compensation remedy was not established on the face of the complaint and because defendant did not plead the exclusive remedy bar as an affirmative defense, defendant waived the defense. The court noted that the case was procedurally unique because defendant did not argue potential legal defenses.
The appeals court affirmed the judgment in favor of plaintiff employee in his wrongful termination action. The court ruled that defendant city waived the defenses of the exhaustion doctrine and the exclusive remedy rule of worker’s compensation by failing to plead them as affirmative defenses.