New trial ordered in suit alleging discrimination

March 30, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

A female veterinarian who won $39,000 in a 1993 sex discrimination suit against an Ellicott City veterinarian will have to go to trial again after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled yesterday that the judge erred in his jury instructions.

The court decided that, while there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict in favor of Dr. Linda C. Molesworth, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr. failed to give jurors a required instruction that might have affected the outcome.

Dr. Molesworth of Friendship sued her former employer, Dr. Randall Brandon of Ellicott City in 1991, alleging that he fired her from the $35,000-a-year position because she is a woman.

She said yesterday that she was disappointed with the court's decision, but is resolved to have her case heard once again by a different jury.

"It just seems like a waste to throw out a jury's decision that came out of a five-day trial, based on what is essentially a technicality. It's really disappointing," she said.

Dr. Molesworth had worked for Dr. Brandon for two years, primarily caring for horses at the Laurel Park racetrack. In the two months before she was fired, Dr. Molesworth "was not advised of any problems," according to a brief submitted to the Court of Special Appeals by her lawyer, Alan H. Legum.

But when Dr. Brandon called her into his office and fired her on July 13, 1990, she was told at least eight clients had complained about her, according to the court's 37-page ruling released yesterday.

And when she asked in that meeting if she was being fired because she was a woman, Dr. Brandon "nodded in agreement," the court opinion said.

Dr. Brandon's lawyers argued that Dr. Molesworth was dismissed because numerous horse trainers, who were Dr. Brandon's clients, had criticized her methods and her attitude.

"The big complaint was that she just wouldn't listen to these trainers, many of whom are highly experienced, know a lot about horses and should be listened to," E. Alexander Adams, Dr. Brandon's lawyer, said yesterday.

In the court's ruling, Judge Ellen L. Hollander wrote that Judge Goudy should have included an instruction saying that if jurors felt the employment period was "sufficiently short," they could infer Dr. Molesworth's dismissal was not discriminatory.

Mr. Adams said that the contested instruction could have reversed the decision of the jury of five women and one man.

Mr. Legum said his client continues to work as a veterinarian, primarily in the Laurel area.

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