Court Overturns $1.1 Million Jury Verdict Against Elizabeth Public Schools

ELIZABETH – A three-judge appellate panel in Trenton has reversed a $1.1 million jury verdict against the Elizabeth Public Schools brought by a former security guard who alleged employment discrimination, school officials announced Tuesday.

The Appellate Division Panel said that the trial judge improperly allowed two witnesses to repeat the purported statements of a former Elizabeth Board of Education member to the effect that someone else on the board wanted to get rid of employees who filed frequent claims against the school district. The Court said that the alleged statements by Carol Cascio, a Board member in 2005-2006, who was no longer on the board when the statements were purportedly made, was inadmissible hearsay and was so prejudicial to the school district that the whole case should be reversed. The Court issued its ruling in an 18-page unsigned decision, signifying that its determination was not based upon new law, and that these evidence rules were well established during the trial.

The case was brought against the Board and Superintendent Pablo Muñoz by Anthony Pace, who, along with 15 other security guards, was not renewed for a position in 2006 as part of a large staff reduction. Pace alleged he was discriminated against because he had previously filed workman’s compensation claims.

Elizabeth Board of Education President Fernando Nazco stated, “Despite the lengthy appeals process, we are ultimately satisfied that the Court determined that the Board was completely justified in its non-renewal of Mr. Pace, and any allegations that the district acted improperly were completely baseless.”

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