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Turyna v. Martam Construction Co., Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
83 F.3d 178 (7th Cir. 1996)


Brad Turnya (plaintiff) was fired from his job as a truck driver for Martam Construction Co., Inc. (Martam) (defendant). Turnya sued Martam, its owner Tamas Kutrovacs, and vice president Claude Koenig (defendants) for (I) back overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201, (II) retaliatory firing under the FLSA and in violation of Illinois public policy, and (III) breach of contract. The court entered summary judgment for the defendants with respect to the breach of contract claim, but the remaining questions were put to the jury. The judge instructed the jury that if it found in favor of the defendants on both counts it did not have to address the question of damages. The judge instructed further that if the jury found in favor of Turnya on Count I or either of the two parts of Count II, damages would have to be assessed. The jury was given a verdict form that was neither a special verdict form nor a general verdict form. The jury found for Turnya on Count I and the defendants on Count II. Under Count II, the jury filled in the blank awarding Turnya $3,109.22 in unpaid overtime pay. The form then asked the jury whether it awarded Turnya “punitive damages under Count II.” The jury filled in a punitive damage award against Martam for $35,618.01. Neither party’s attorney was present when the jury returned its verdict, and the court entered judgment for Turnya with compensatory, liquidated, and punitive damages. Martam moved the court to set aside the punitive damage award pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) on the ground that it was inconsistent with the jury’s finding that the defendants were not liable for retaliatory firing under either part of Count II. The court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wood, J.)

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