Company owner sexually batters employee at company dinner. $1.3 million. Los Angeles County.
Company owner sexually touches and fondles employee at restaurant and in company van.
- Case Name: Joan A. v. Shahram S., Doe Industrial Company
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC571653
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, October 28, 2016
- Date Action was Filed: Thursday, February 05, 2015
- Type of Action: Sexual Battery, Sexual Harassment
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Deirdre Hill
- Plaintiffs: Joan A., 32, administrative assistant.
- Defendants: Shahram S., owner of defendant Doe Industrial CompanyDoe Industrial Company (a corporation)
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $1,314,058
- Award as to each Defendant:
The jury found liability on all claims against all defendants.
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Doe Industrial Company: 30%; Shahram S.: 50%; Joan A. 20%
- Economic Damages:
Past lost earnings: $74,315
Past medical: $2,500
Future lost earnings: $63,133
Future medical: $49,110
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Punitive Damages:
$125,000. The jury found punitive damages against both the individual and the corporate defendants.
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 34 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 32 hours.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff will file a motion for attorney fees via the Fair Employment and Housing Act; and reimbursement of all costs, including all expert witness costs.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Valencia & Cywinska, Inc. by Mark Joseph Valencia and Izabela Cywinska Valencia, Los Angeles.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester, LLP by Alfred De La Cruz, San Diego.
Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester, LLP by Debora L. Verdier, Phoenix, AZ.
Posner & Rosen, LLP by Howard Z. Rosen, Los Angeles.
- Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Scott L. Carder, M.D., Ph.D., psychiatry, Pasadena.
Craig D. Snyder, Ph.D., psychology, Brentwood.
Cindy Yang, M.D., family practice, Northridge. (Treating Physician.)
Kathy Cairo, M.D., family practice, Northridge. (Treating Physician.)
- Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
Saul J. Faerstein, M.D., psychiatry, Beverly Hills.
- Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Kirk Marangi, MBA, economics, Pasadena.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Plaintiff Joan A, a married mother of two, worked in the accounts receivable department at Doe Industrial Company (a corporation) in Van Nuys from May 2012 through February 14, 2014. Defendant corporation distributes construction materials.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
Joan A. alleges that on Friday, February 7, 2014, defendant Shahram S., her boss and owner of defendant corporation invited her and other female co-workers out to the Kinnara Thai Restaurant in Van Nuys. Plaintiff told him that she did not want to go to the company function as her daughter was recovering from sickness. Defendant told her that since it was a company dinner, she was required to go.
Defendant, at about 5:15 pm, drove plaintiff and three other female employees to the restaurant. Defendant admits that he had been drinking alcohol earlier that day, starting at approximately 1:30 pm, and that he continued to drink alcohol, including tequila, throughout the afternoon, prior to driving the employees to Kinnara Thai Restaurant.
At the restaurant, defendant continued to drink alcohol, and thereafter as he was sitting next to her, began to forcibly touch plaintiff against her will, on her buttocks, legs, vaginal area, and her breast area.
At the restaurant, plaintiff offered her resignation to the human resources manager, who was present at the dinner, and informed the human resources manager that she was scared of defendant because he was asking her to stay in the van with him after he drove everyone back to the corporate offices.
The human resources manager informed plaintiff that they would call a cab to leave – but defendant told plaintiff that there was no need to call a cab and that he would be driving the employees back to the office, which he did.
When they arrived back at the office, all of the four female company employees, including plaintiff, exited the vehicle, at which time defendant, who was still in the driver’s seat of the van, started to repeatedly yell at plaintiff, pressuring her to return back into the vehicle.
Plaintiff informed another female company employee that she did not want to return back into the van, at which time, the female employee, in an attempt to stop defendant from yelling, said: “Joan we will go in there for 10 minutes – just ten minutes.”
Plaintiff sat in the second row of the van, and defendant, from the driver’s seat of the vehicle, began to touch her again and made lewd comments.
The human resources manager, fearing for Joan’s safety and well-being, and who was in possession of Joan’s cell phone, knocked on the van door, and informed plaintiff that her husband was on the phone in order to get plaintiff out of the van and plaintiff was able to leave the van. In reality, however, the Human Resources manager had called her friend and told him to call Joan’s cell phone to pretend to be Joan’s husband. The phone call was used as a justification to go to the van and get Joan out of the van, without the Human Resources manager giving offense to defendant owner.
On Sunday, February 9, 2014, plaintiff filed a criminal complaint with the LAPD. On Monday, February 10, 2014, plaintiff’s treating physician medically released her from work for one month. She was shortly thereafter diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. On Friday, February 14, 2014, plaintiff formally resigned.
On February 21, 2014, an LAPD detective telephonically contacted defendant corporation and asked about the whereabouts of the percipient witnesses from the dinner. The individual on the phone, who was present at the dinner, told the detective that three of the witnesses were not available, even though all three witnesses were physically present at the corporate office when the detective was on the phone.
Within an hour of the LAPD detective calling defendant corporation's office, defendant company owner drove the three percipient witnesses, one against her will and without her knowledge of where she was going, to his criminal attorney’s office, at which time all percipient witnesses were interviewed. Two of the three percipient witnesses were provided counsel, paid for by defendants, while the third percipient witness refused to cooperate with the criminal attorney and thereafter resigned from the company.
Plaintiff brought actions for: Sexual Battery, Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment, Failure to Prevent Harassment, Constructive Discharge in Violation of Public Policy and Negligence.
- Defendant's Contentions:
Defendants claimed that there were no sexual batteries, and at most, defendant, while at the restaurant, only touched plaintiff's head, hair, upper back, and squeezed her shoulder.
Defense further claimed that Joan A. made up the allegations because she felt guilty for going out to the company dinner while having a sick child at home and as a result of that guilt suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms and Major Depressive Disorder.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder from the sexual battery and harassment from February 7, 2014.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: None.
- Defendant §998 Offer: $275,000