New trial ordered in sex discrimination lawsuit

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 will have to go to trial again. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled yesterday that the judge erred in his instructions to the jury.

The court decided that although 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 the 6600 block of Old Solomons Island Road in Friendship sued her former boss, 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.

Dr. Molesworth said yesterday that she was disappointed with the court's decision but has resolved to have her case heard 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 July 13, 1990, she was told that at least eight clients had complained about her, according to the court's 37-page ruling released yesterday.

And when she asked at that meeting whether 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 that Dr. Molesworth's dismissal was not discriminatory.

"We cannot say that the omission of the instruction was harmless or that, even if the court had given the requested instruction, the outcome would have been the same," the court said.

Mr. Adams said the contested instruction could have reversed the jury's decision.

"The amount of evidence against my client was so extremely sparse that instruction would have made a big difference, in my view," he said.

Mr. Legum said yesterday that the case was fairly tried and that the appeals court, in its decision, seemed to go out of its way to reverse the jury award.

"The big issues all got resolved in our favor in this case. But of the 10 points raised by the defendant in the appeal, this had to rank like ninth or 10th in terms of importance," he said.

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

He said he will ask the Court of Appeals to review the decision. If that request is denied, the case will be retried in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, he said.

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