Lawyers for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are seeking a new trial in the case of former teacher Jeffrey Leardini, who was awarded more than $1 million last month when a jury agreed he was coerced to resign.
The motion filed Wednesday claims that U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen erred in his instructions to the jury and that the damage award is the result of passion and prejudice.
Leardini, who spent eight years as a highly regarded teacher in CMS, resigned in April 2006 after being confronted with allegations that several students said he had touched them improperly. When his suit against CMS went to trial in February, he testified that he touched students shoulders and heads as part of an interactive teaching style, but he said false reports of inappropriate touching stemmed from a conflict with a student who was getting bad grades in his class.
Leardini and his lawyers argued that Kay Cunningham, who was an employee relations specialist for CMS, misled him into believing he had to resign immediately to get paid through the end of the year and avoid further investigation, and that he would be fired based on the touching he admitted to.
Lawyers for CMS and Cunningham said she provided valid information about the CMS policy against unwelcome or inappropriate physical contact, and that Leardini voluntarily resigned because he believed it was in his own best interest.
The jury awarded Leardini $1.1 million from CMS and just over $52,000 from Cunningham.
According to the motion filed by lawyers Mason Alexander and Martha Kingston, The award has no rational relationship to the evidence of damages at trial and ... is so excessive that to allow it to stand would result in a miscarriage of justice.
Researcher Maria David contributed.