Fired Mercedes Dealer Employee With Cancer Gets $5M From Jury

A Mercedes Benz dealer in Seattle violated federal and state disability bias law when it refused to allow a finance director to return to work following surgery for vocal cord cancer, a federal jury decided, awarding him nearly $5 million.

Troy Coachman says he generated millions of dollars of income every year he worked for Seattle Auto Management Inc., which does business as Mercedes Benz of Seattle. Even after his cancer was first diagnosed and he underwent chemotherapy and radiation, he remained a top producer, despite having to speak in a whisper, according to his lawsuit.

But Coachman’s cancer recurred, requiring him to have his larynx removed and replaced with a voice box. That was too much for the dealership’s owner, Al Monjazeb, who felt that Coachman’s need to press a button on his throat to speak and the sound of his voice box would put off customers, Coachman alleged. Monjazeb barred him from returning to work and refused to meet with him to discuss possible job accommodations. That included extending his medical leave if he disagreed with the opinion of Coachman’s doctor that Coachman was ready to return to work, the lawsuit asserted.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington jury Oct. 11 found in Coachman’s favor, agreeing that the dealership failed to accommodate his disability and fired him because of it. The jury also rejected the dealership’s arguments that it made an unconditional job offer to Coachman that he rejected and that Coachman failed to limit the financial impact of losing his job.

The jury awarded Coachman a total of $4,934,060 in economic and other compensatory damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Washington’s Law Against Discrimination.

The case is Coachman v. Seattle Auto Mgmt., Inc., W.D. Wash., No. 2:17-cv-00187, jury verdict 10/11/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com