Trials & Litigation

Ex-judge is awarded $7M by St. Louis jury in disability suit

  • Print

A former administrative law judge who wanted to work despite his muscular dystrophy but says he was forced by a hostile work environment to go on long-term disability instead was awarded $7 million last week by a St. Louis jury.

The award to Matthew Vacca, 55, includes $3 million in punitive damages. Of the $3 million, $500,000 is to be paid by Brian May, the director of the Workers’ Compensation Division of the Missouri Division of Labor & Industrial Relations where Vacca formerly worked, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Attorney Joan Swartz is one of the lawyers who represented Vacca. She said a judge will determine after an Oct. 9 hearing how much to award her client in attorney fees and whether he should be reinstated as an administrative law judge.

“He felt vindicated,” said Swartz of Vacca during a Friday interview with the newspaper. “He felt like he was heard and somebody listened to him and believed him and saw him for the first time on these issues.”

Vacca had served as an administrative law judge since 1992. In 2011, May said Vacca had effectively resigned by applying for long-term disability benefits, according to court documents.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Attorney General’s office, which defended the case, declined to comment when contacted by the Post-Dispatch.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.