Janitor with Shoulder Injury Wins $1.1 Million in Wrongful Termination Suit


Stellar employee takes time off to treat for shoulder injury, suffers retaliation and termination.

The Case

  • Case Name: Maria Guerrero v. Able Engineering Inc.
  • Court and Case Number: San Diego Superior Court / 37-2017-00020532-CU-WT-CTL
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, April 03, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, June 07, 2017
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Kenneth Medel
  • Plaintiffs: Maria Guerrero, 63.
  • Defendants: Able Engineering Inc.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,107,855.60
  • Economic Damages:
    Past lost wages: $19,494
    Future lost wages: $38,361.60
  • Non-Economic Damages:
    Past noneconomic: $100,000
    Future noneconomic: $50,000
  • Punitive Damages: $900,000
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 9 days.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees is pending.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Gruenberg Law by Josh Pang, Pam Vallero and Josh Gruenberg, San Diego.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Ogletree Deakins by Frank Tobin and Jennifer Hendricks, San Diego.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
    Emily Churchill, M.D., internal medicine, San Diego. (Treating physician.)

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:
    Plaintiff worked as a janitor at 655 West Broadway in downtown San Diego for 11 years. She developed a shoulder injury and began to take off time from work for doctor’s appointments.
  • Plaintiff’s Contentions:
    That despite accruing hundreds of hours of “sick time,” Defendant Company suddenly began to retaliate against plaintiff with concocted write-ups, unwarranted suspensions without pay, bogus investigations and her ultimate termination. That plaintiff indisputedly had been a stellar employee for the first 10 1/2 years of her employment. In the last half-year of her employment, plaintiff received four written warnings, including two suspensions, before being terminated.
  • Defendant’s Contentions:
    Defendants maintained that the disciplinary actions were justified, and her termination was, in fact, a “layoff.”  Defendants also disputed that plaintiff suffered a disability.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $165,000 – two weeks prior to trial.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $7,500 plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $25,000 – two weeks prior to trial.