MDV in Oklahoma - $61 Million Worth
by Michael Fox
A hat tip to the Daily Labor Report which alerted me to a substantial Oklahoma City verdict in February. A claims manager for Progressive Halcryon Insurance brought a claim for hostile environment, gender discrimination and retaliation. The jury must have viewed them equally — finding $350,000 in compensatory for each of the three claims, which alone would have qualified it as an MDV. But the jury wasn't through — topping it with a $60 million punitive damage award. The reports I found, see Jury says a Tulsa deserves millions [sic]from the Tulsa News World and Tulsan Wins Gender Discrimination Lawsuit from KOTV, don't have the sort of facts that sometimes jump out in these cases, although it was clear that there were some credibility questions such as whether she declined a lower position that was offered to her.
There may well have been some other factors that inflamed the jury, but it's a good reminder that when you lose on liability in an employment case, that means you have lost the credibility battle, and too often that in at least one jury's eyes you stand doubly condemned — not only are you a discriminator, but a liar. And that's a volatile combination.
The stories make the good point that the maximum that can be awarded out of that $61 million of damage is $300,000 because of the caps on Title VII recovery. However, counsel for plaintiff is optimistic that there is $200,000 in back pay, $600,000 in front pay to go with the $300,000 and of course attorneys fees. As we have seen it also could be that it will ultimately end up to be nothing, which still still doesn't remove the lesson.