Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Employment Cases in the NLJ's Top 100 Verdicts in 2002

The National Law Journal has released its annual list of the top 100 verdicts for the past year. Fortunately, no employment law case made the top 50. The employment law cases that did make the list include:
No. 54. Steinberg Moorad & Dunn Inc. v. David L. Dunn, No. SCV-16881 CA 10 (C.D. Calif.) A $40.6 million dollar judgment in favor of super sport agent Leigh Steinberg and his company against former partner David Dunn, who established a competitive company and took a large number of clients. Part of the verdict was due to the recreation of e-mail showing that much of the activity in setting up the competitive business occurred before he left the firm.
No. 59. Gurtin v. The Nurse Connection Inc., No. OCN-L-4017-94 (Ocean Co., N.J., Super. Ct.) $40 million judgment for negligent hiring of a home health care worker who murdered a patient. The employer allegedly didn't find out about his prior burglary conviction and termination from another company.
No. 75 Gober v. Ralphs Grocery Co., No. N72142, (San Diego Co., Calif., Super. Ct.) Proving the second time can be even worse, a retrial on the punitive damage aspect of a sexual harassment case led to a $30 million punitive damage award, approximately ten times the original award.
No. 87 Jelinek v. Abbott Laboratories A $25.7 million verdict in an age discrimination case, where the 59 year old plaintiff argued that he should not have been the only employee forced to move out of his home territory following a reorganization. Instead he took early retirement. The jury did not agree that he had been constructively discharged, but still awarded $25 million in punitive damages.
No. 96 Bogle v. McClure, No. 100-CV-2071 (N.D. Ga.) Seven librarians at the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System won a $23.4 million dollar verdict in their reverse discrimination case. They alleged they had been transferred and in effect demoted because they were white.

The last two cases reflect an aspect of employment law trials that might strike those who do not regularly try employment law cases as odd - that juries can be enraged enough to award large punitive damage awards, even when the employee bringing the suit was not terminated, and sometimes is still employed. It is a reflection of how important the conduct, and often attitude, of the employer is to juries.

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