Business

Worker says he was fired after his boss attacked him. Jury says the firm should pay.

Construction workers work under a cloudy sky in Charlotte.
Construction workers work under a cloudy sky in Charlotte. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

A former employee won $750,000 from a general contractor he alleged fired him after a supervisor attacked him on the job in Charlotte, after a jury trial last week.

Justin Driskell, a construction worker from Georgia, filed the suit against Summit Contracting Group, a Florida-based company that has built some of Charlotte’s largest apartment developments. Driskell’s claims stemmed from a 2015 incident, when Summit was hired to repair floor trusses at Circle University City apartments, a student housing community across from UNC Charlotte’s main entrance.

Driskell said his superintendent was drunk on the job and created an unsafe work environment. Instead of taking action against the supervisor, the lawsuit alleges, Summit fired Driskell after the superintendent attacked him in a hotel parking lot and sent him to the hospital.

On Friday, following a trial in federal court in Charlotte, a jury returned a verdict agreeing with Driskell. They awarded him $69,000 in compensatory damages for lost wages and medical bills, and $681,000 in punitive damages against Summit.

“We are thankful that the jury helped bring closure to a painful chapter in Justin’s life by finding that Summit Contracting’s termination of his employment was illegal,” said Sean Herrmann, of Van Kampen Law, which represented Driskell. “Justin is happy to finally be vindicated by a jury of his peers.”

A Summit representative said the company is considering appealing the verdict.

“Summit disagrees with the result and is confident that the story of this case is only beginning,” said Aaron Trascritti, director of client relations for Summit. “While Summit continues its defense in Court, providing safe jobsites and positive work environments will remain its top priority in the city of Charlotte and elsewhere.”

The company is a prolific builder in Charlotte, and is currently working on the $71 million renovation and new apartment construction at Atherton Mill in South End.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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