Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dealing a $2 Million Dollar Verdict in the California Wine Country

Sexual comments and jokes, including a Levitra pen that apparently grows in length, followed by a complaint with no follow up and then a termination were what a Sonoma County jury apparently believed was the hand Shannen De La Cruz , a minimum wage card dealer, had been dealt. $2 million harrassment verdict against Petaluma card room

Although it is easy to imagine how the comments contained in the newspaper story could have been made and taken by everyone as funny, it is equally clear that as it came across in the court room, the jury was offended, not amused.

One factor that certainly did not help the company was the testimony of four other women, including one who had settled her own case. Making that testimony probably even more powerful, she was the human resources chief to whom De La Cruz had reported the harassment. The unresolved issue of how much "me too" evidence should be admitted is an on-going danger of these types of cases.

Although with $5 million year in revenues it's hard to think of the casino on the receiving end of the jury verdict as a really small business, it is certainly no colossus. And what would tend to get almost any small business owner's attention is that the jury verdict amounts to 2/3 of the company's net worth.

Now as I repeatedly mention in reports of MDV's, there is a long way between jury verdict and payment and it is highly likely that any amount ultimately paid, if any, will be considerably less. But that a jury knowing the employee's financial net worth, felt it appropriate to give 2/3 of it to one ex-employee, has to be a sobering thought when contemplating placing one's fate in the hands of a jury.


I would like to know what the company's lawyer offered, if anything, in settlement talks. I had a case recently where the other lawyer offered me $500. I took the case to a judgment of $50,000. That needn't have happened if the other side had been reasonable in settlement. Whenever there's a multi-million dollar verdict, it usually means someone made a mistake in settlement discussions.
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