A recent opinion issued by the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands offers a good example of a directed verdict and how it can lead to more efficient resolutions to wrongful termination lawsuits that do not contain sufficient evidence.
This case centers on utilities company Glacial Energy VI, which hired Melinda Sorber as its new manager of application support in January 2010. After working for about 80 consecutive days, Sorber decided to take a two-week vacation to New York City in late September 2010, providing her employer with less than 48 hours’ notice. Sorber and Glacial Energy COO Keith Lockwood exchanged a number of text messages during this impromptu vacation, with the end result being Sorber’s termination of employment.
Afterwards, Sorber filed a lawsuit claiming that she was wrongfully terminated in violation of the Virgin Islands Wrongful Discharge Act. The case, Sorber v. Glacial Energy VI, moved forward, and after all of the evidence was presented, Glacial Energy requested a directed verdict — meaning that the court rules without consideration from a jury — under Rule 50 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. The court initially denied the motion.
In its opinion, released in November, the Superior Court reversed its position and granted the defendant the motion, while also ruling in favor of Glacial Energy VI in the overall lawsuit. The court made this ruling based on the fact that the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence that she was wrongfully terminated. Specifically, the fact that Sorber was a supervisor per the National Labor Relations Act and was not covered under the VI Wrongful Discharge Act led to the court making its decision.
Although some individuals who have been fired may have good reason to file a lawsuit against a former employer, there are many other cases in which the claims being made will not hold up in a civil court. This appears to be the situation with this recent Superior Court opinion, in which the court allowed a more swift resolution due to a lack of evidence presented by the plaintiff.