Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Isn't It Time for Basketball Yet?

That's probably what Isiah Thomas was thinking last night as he pondered the impact of the jury's note to the judge in the sexual harassment case brought against him and his employer the NY Knicks.

Unlike the jury which was sent home for the night, Thomas was free to read the papers which were more than happy to help him understand what the note meant: With Defeat Looming, What's Next for Isiah Thomas, Knicks?

According to the ABC news story, the note indicated that there was one question that left the jury divided:

The members of the jury remained divided 6-1 on Question No. 4, which deals with whether Thomas will be held personally liable for punitive damages. And since the verdict form instructed the jury to skip Question No. 4 unless it had found in favor of the plaintiff, it was apparent the New York Knicks were headed for a defeat.
Although this probably isn't the most significant point for Thomas and his counsel, the reporting indicates the difficulty that the press has in covering trials. I know something about employment law jury trials and I am confused about what exactly is left, because according to the various stories it could be:
  • that the jury is divided on individual liability for Thomas and once that is divided, the jury will move to the "penalty phase" (not exactly a precise legal term) with the jury deciding punitive damages and the judge deciding compensatory damages;

  • according to the Bloomberg story, the jury is divided on whether to award punitive damages and they can't be answering that question unless they have already decided to hold Thomas and his employer liable;

  • Newsday seems to side with Bloomberg saying the issue left is "whether they should slap Thomas with punitive damages,"

  • and the Detroit Free Press just leaves it open holding that the note makes clear "they have reached decisions against the defense on some of the nine claims," which appears to confuse claims with jury issues.

The good news (for us, not Thomas and the Knicks) is that it should all be a lot clearer later today as the jury returns to deliberation this morning. Of course it is not unheard of to have such notes spark serious settlement discussions.

Even Knicks basketball, bad as it is, has to be better than this for Thomas and company.

Update: Now it offficially makes it into the million dollar club: Jury awards $11.6 million in Knicks harassment case.


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