$1.25 million verdict when shopping mall owner sexually harasses manager, demands sex. Riverside County.
Jury awards substantial punitives against shopping mall owner who demands sex from mall manager in return for pay raise.
- Case Name: Karen Moran v. Sureshchandra Shah
- Court and Case Number: Riverside County Superior Court / INC087504
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, August 05, 2013
- Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, June 24, 2009
- Type of Case: Sexual Harassment
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. John G. Evans
Plaintiffs: Karen Moran, 34, mall manager/leasing agent.
Defendants: Sureshchandra Shah, employer and part-owner of shopping mall.
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $1,250,000
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
$250,000 for emotional distress.
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 17 days
- Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days
- Jury Polls: Mulitple polls; majority were 11-1.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendant to file motion for new trial. Plaintiff to file attorney's fees motion under FEHA. At time of report submission no post verdict settlement discussions have occurred.
Attorney for the Plaintiff: McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP by Patrick McNicholas, Los Angeles.Law Offices of John W. Dalton by John W. Dalton, Solana Beach.Law Office of Jason L. Oliver by Jason L. Oliver, Pasadena.
Attorney for the Defendant: The Reis Law Firm, PC by Sean Reis, Rancho Santa Margarita.
Plaintiff’s Medical Experts: None.
Defendant's Medical Experts: None.
Plaintiff's Technical Experts: None.
Defendant's Technical Experts: None.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
Plaintiff worked as mall manager/leasing agent at Town Center Mall in Yucca Valley from June 7, 2007 until her termination on January 18, 2008.
Defendant was part-owner of the mall.
That from the time plaintiff was hired, defendant mall owner subjected her and other employees to incidents of sexual harassment.
The turning point occurred in early December 2007, when defendant propositioned plaintiff for oral sex in exchange for a raise. Plaintiff refused and the next day defendant threatened to fire her. His conduct escalated from that point, including calling her vile, gender-based names, directing vulgar profanity at her, demeaning her based on her gender, and sending her, and other women, sexually explicit emails. At trial, eight other women, who were prior, contemporaneous and subsequent victims, testified as to defendant's sexual misconduct towards them and toward plaintiff.
In phase 1 of the trial, plaintiff contended she was sexually harassed by the defendant-owner. Ultimately, defendant terminated plaintiff. Plaintiff suffered emotional distress as a result of defendant’s offensive and abusive conduct.
In phase 2, punitive damages, plaintiff claimed defendant had sufficient wealth, and that the conduct was sufficiently offensive to warrant a punitive damage award.
In phase 1, defendant denied liability and claimed plaintiff suffered no damages. Defendant contended the opportunity for interaction with plaintiff was minimal. He denied making any offer of a raise for oral sex and his counsel claimed in opening statement that the evidence would show that plaintiff had brought the lawsuit because she was “pissed” for having been fired by defendant.
In phase 2, defendant further contended that his financial condition was such that punitive damages should not be awarded.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: N/A
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: N/A
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: N/A
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: N/A
Two mediations went forward on August 10, 2011 and June 8, 2012, respectively, but were unsuccessful. In May 2013, plaintiff offered to participate in another mediation if there were a "bracket" of $300,000 - $900,000. Defendant declined the offer.
Plaintiff is in the process of preparing a motion for attorney’s fees and costs for work and expenses covering the five years the case was litigated. Defendant has stated his intention to file a motion for new trial.