Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Million Dollar Minnesota, But Not So in Toledo

Today's million dollar verdict, comes from Minneapolis where Ann McGregor convinced a jury that Mallinckrodt Inc., a Tyco subsidiary, tried to create an all male team in one of its divisions at her expense. Although offered a job, she argued it was a sham. She turned it down and turned instead to court. The Star Tribune has the story. The jury award was apparently fueled in part by the company's admission that she was a good employee. That is a tough choice that faces employers in cases where the employee rejects a position and leaves the company. Ultimately, it is the jury's perception of the offered job, which will carry the day, not management's. And it hurts (or helps) depending on which side you are on, to be in an unfavorable venue. According to McGregor's counsel, this is one of seven verdicts for employees against their employer in Minnesota that have topped the million dollar mark.

Although they are much less prominently reported, occasionally a defense verdict makes the headlines. And the Toledo Blade has this one. Often, as in the case of besieged former Sheriff H. Weldin Neff of Seneca County, Ohio, they involve public officials. In this case though the jury quickly rejected the three million dollar harassment claim of Alice Dohner, a former employee who claimed she was forced from her job when the Sheriff had another employee stalk and intimidate her. The most surprised person, with the possible exception of Ms. Dohner, was her lawyer:
"It was the most disappointing decision I’ve had in 46 years as a lawyer," he said. "We had all the evidence that was necessary, including smoking-gun evidence, and we thought the case was a winner, and it was only a question of how much. So that verdict for the defense, in less than two hours, was quite a shock. Now I know how [O.J. Simpson prosecutor] Marcia Clark feels."


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