Nurse at state mental hospital claims supervisor harassed and endangered her. Defense. San Luis Obispo County.


Plaintiff claims constructive termination and PTSD due to harassment from supervisor.

The Case

  • Case Name: Janet Ochotorena v. Department of State Hospitals
  • Court and Case Number: San Luis Obispo Superior Court / 14CVP-0252
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
  • Type of Case: Discrimination, Sexual, Employment, Harassment, Sexual Harassment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Ginger Garrett
  • Plaintiffs:
    Janet Ochotorena
  • Defendants:
    Department of State Hospitals
    Alfred Sweet
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 21 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 10 hours
  • Jury Polls: 9-3 for defense.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Sarnoff + Sarnoff by David Sarnoff and Maria Bourn, San Francisco.

    Law Offices of Lawrence A. Organ by Lawrence Organ, San Anselmo.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Office of the Attorney General by Elisabeth Frater and Darren Shaffer, Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Anthony Reading, Ph.D., forensic psychology, Beverly Hills.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Ari Kalechstein, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Los Angeles.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Charles Mahla, Ph.D., economics, Sacramento.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Richard Barnes, accounting, Sacramento.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The plaintiff, a former nurse at Atascadero State Hospital, claimed her supervisor placed her in dangerous situations based on his treatment of women. She also alleged that the supervisor made inappropriate comments towards her, including calling her a “bitch” and such things as “isn’t that just like a female?” and “I can do it better than your husband.”

    Plaintiff resigned, claiming constructive termination.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff claimed the supervisor’s actions caused her to suffer from insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and PTSD. At least some of plaintiff’s co-workers were supportive of her and did not like the supervisor.

    Plaintiff claimed she was constructively terminated because she was a woman and that her harm was that she developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was unable to work. Plaintiff also sought punitive damages against defendant Alfred Sweet.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That plaintiff did not suffer from PTSD and that she voluntarily obtained disability retirement and was not subjected to harassment, discrimination or retaliation because she was a woman.

    Defense presented evidence that plaintiff was not endangered and not subjected to a sexually hostile work environment. The supervisor had poor people skills and treated everyone badly, but was not biased against women. Pre-trial investigation of plaintiff raised doubt as to the veracity of her claims of being severely impacted.

Additional Notes

Plaintiff sought damages in the range of $2,000,000 and attorneys fees. The offer by defense at a prior settlement conference was $200,000 and the defense made a CCP section 998 offer of $201,000.