Wal-Mart appeals 'unreasonable' $1.2M award in ex-employee lawsuit

TORONTO – Wal-Mart Canada says a jury verdict that awarded a former employee more than $1 million is “shockingly unreasonable.”

The company is asking the Court of Appeal for Ontario to dismiss the claims made by Meredith Boucher — who used to work at a store in Windsor, Ontario — or at least lower the amount Wal-Mart has to pay her.

Boucher sued Wal-Mart and her former manager, Jason Pinnock, for intentional infliction of mental suffering and constructive dismissal, meaning she was asked to work in intolerable conditions.

The trial heard that Pinnock was mentally abusive toward her and would criticize her in front of other staff, such as when he made her count a row of skids to prove she could count to 10 and that Wal-Mart didn’t take action against him.

The jury ordered Wal-Mart to pay her $1 million in punitive damages and $200,000 in aggravated damages, as well as awarding her $250,000 from Pinnock.

Both Pinnock and Wal-Mart are appealing, with Wal-Mart suggesting the jury wasn’t properly instructed and that a better informed jury wouldn’t have come up with those amounts.

Wal-Mart called the damage awards “wholly disproportionate and/or shockingly unreasonable.”

“The findings of the jury were a substantial wrong and/or a miscarriage of justice,” Wal-Mart said in its notice of appeal.

Boucher’s lawyer, Myron Shulgan, said the jury’s findings should be upheld.

“This jury spoke as the voice and conscience of the community to express its view of Wal-Mart’s conduct,” he said in an interview from Windsor.

“We’re disappointed that Wal-Mart’s chosen to dedicate its resources to pursue an appeal of this decision rather than making use of those resources to improve the environment and condition in which their employees are employed.”