Caldera v. Dept. of Corrections & RehabilitationAnnotate this Case
Augustine Caldera was a correctional officer at a state prison with a stutter. The prison’s employees mocked or mimicked Caldera’s stutter at least a dozen times over a period of about two years. Sergeant James Grove, a supervisor, participated in the mocking and mimicking of Caldera’s stutter. Such conduct reflected the prison’s culture, according to a senior prison official. Caldera sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and Grove (collectively defendants) for disability harassment, failure to prevent the harassment, and related claims. A jury found the harassment to be both severe and pervasive and awarded Caldera $500,000 in noneconomic damages. The trial court found the damage award to be excessive and granted defendants’ motion for a new trial solely as to that issue. Defendants appealed and Caldera cross-appealed. Defendants claimed there was insufficient evidence the harassment was either severe or pervasive. Defendants also claimed the trial court committed two instructional and one evidentiary error. The Court of Appeal found substantial evidence to support the jury’s factual findings. The Court of Appeal also found no prejudicial instructional errors and the claimed evidentiary error was forfeited. Caldera claimed the trial court failed to file a timely statement of reasons after granting defendants’ motion for a new trial. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed the trial court’s new trial order as to the damage award. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed.