Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, May 15, 2006

Wine Country Verdict Bad News for Sonoma County - $6.5 MDV - Updated


March 17, 2006 post - Wine Country Verdict Bad News for Sonoma County - $6.5 MDV.

Today's update: The trial judge has shaved $4 million from the jury verdict, reducing the award to a still sizeable $2.5. Plaintiff has until this Friday to accept the lowered award or face a new trial on damages. The Court also conditionally granted a new trial finding juror misconduct on the damages. Affidavits indicated jurors inappropriately increased the award 40% for attorneys fees and 35% for taxes. The Court still has to award statutory attorneys fees. See California Judge Slices $4 Million Off Award to Agoraphobic Worker, Daily Labor Report ($).

Programming note -- Although the purpose of reporting the Million Dollar Verdicts is to emphasize the reality of what can happen in employment law trials, I am always clear (I hope) to make the distinction between the jury's verdict and the Court's judgment, which is what the employer would have to pay or appeal. Often there is a great disparity between a jury's raw verdict (the amount reported in the MDV story) and what the trial judge will find is legally supported.

Even after a judgment is entered by the trial court there are multiple layers of legal steps, including appeals, which often reduce the judgment even further. In the interests of showing a more complete picture, I will update MDV stories as I find them. One fact of life is that reductions rarely get the same press as jury awards and many of the cases are settled quietly at some stage along the way. But where available, I will try to give both sides.

Seeing that a large award can and often is substantially reduced, should not diminish the awareness that the employer's conduct as seen through the lens of the courtroom was enough to outrage a group of jurors. Those lessons are what I hope the MDV's convey.

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