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- Lee v. Allstate Ins. Co, CIVIL ACTION NO. CVDPJ-FKB | Casetext.
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Allstate's reliance on that case is inapposite. The other cases cited by Allstate are equally unpersuasive. See Miranda v. Star Steel Tex. Utz Quality Foods, Inc. Culligan International Co. The court noted that the manager never touched the plaintiff, never invited her to have sex or a date, and he never threatened her, exposed himself, or showed her a dirty picture.
Allstate argues that Aakhus never did any of these things either. The jury in this case was instructed that. Plaintiff testified that Aakhus became critical of her work and that his criticisms were completely unfounded, that Aakhus told her that he knew she had reported him to management, that Aakhus began sabotaging her computer, and that she was operating at an extremely high stress level. See Nava v. We therefore conclude that substantial evidence supported the jury's verdict in favor of Plaintiff on her claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment.
It makes two arguments on this issue. First, it argues that Plaintiff was not constructively discharged because a reasonable person in Plaintiff's situation would not have felt compelled to resign. See Ulibarri v. Second, Allstate asserts that, even if Plaintiff was constructively discharged, she failed to prove that her discharge was in retaliation for an act she performed that public policy would authorize or encourage. At most, according to Allstate, Plaintiff presented evidence of 1 a hostile work environment, 2 arguably unfair criticism of her work, 3 being forced to relinquish her private office for a carrel, and 4 an unfounded denial of her request for a leave of absence.
Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Rockwell Int'l, Inc. The district court instructed the jury:. You may consider that [Plaintiff] was constructively discharged from her employment if you find that Defendant Allstate Insurance Company made her working conditions so intolerable, when viewed objectively, that a reasonable person would be compelled to resign, and she had no other choice but to quit. Our review of the transcript convinces us that the jury could have reasonably found that Allstate constructively discharged Plaintiff.
In addition, there was evidence that Aakhus subjected Plaintiff to aggressive, physically intimidating conduct, such as his frequently following her closely on her heels, pointing his finger at her, and shouting at and berating her in public areas of the office. Plaintiff testified that after she reported Aakhus to Allstate's Resolution Line, Aakhus began criticizing her work and that the criticisms were inaccurate and outrageous.
Then, in , after Allstate's human resources department conducted an investigation of the various complaints about Aakhus, he told Plaintiff he knew she had reported him, and he became more aggressive. Ticklers were computerized reminders of deadlines in the various cases handled by the office.
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Several witnesses, including two attorneys who worked closely with Plaintiff, testified that Plaintiff was very competent and her work was excellent. Plaintiff first complained to the Resolution Line in , and others also complained. Plaintiff received no response to her initial complaint indicating that Allstate had looked at the matter, and she was told that the case was closed.
She spoke several times with Allstate's employee assistance program to try to figure out how to get Aakhus to stop his behavior. There were many complaints about Aakhus to the Resolution Line in Ultimately, Allstate sent two people from human resources to the office, and Plaintiff spoke to them.
Allstate disciplined Aakhus, but Plaintiff did not know at the time that this had occurred. Every time she called the Resolution Line she was told to call back on a specific date, but when she did so, she was told the matter was still under investigation and to call back. This exposed her to more of the sexual talk and innuendo.
The jury apparently found Plaintiff's evidence to be more credible than that submitted by Allstate, and we will not second guess that determination. The plaintiff based his claim on criticism of his job performance, loss of overtime, reduction in pay, and loss of a lighter duty position, which the plaintiff contended jeopardized his safety. Plaintiff introduced proof establishing hostile work environment sexual harassment and evidence that her supervisor physically intimidated her, sabotaged her computer, and falsely accused her of inadequate work performance.
The actions of the plaintiff's employer in Gormley were not nearly so egregious.
It cites numerous cases for the propositions that criticism is expected by employees, that denial of leave or movement from an office to a carrel are not egregious enough to constitute constructive discharge, and that giving notice of resignation rather than quitting on the spot demonstrates voluntary termination of employment.
We are not persuaded. These contentions are more in the nature of closing argument than legal reasons for concluding that the evidence was insufficient. It is not our role to reweigh the evidence or substitute our judgment for that of the jury. Consequently, we conclude that the evidence, when considered in its totality, could have reasonably supported the jury's conclusion that Allstate made Plaintiff's working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person in her position would have been compelled to resign.
It contends that it is unclear what act Plaintiff claimed was the reason for her discharge, that she failed to prove a causal connection between the act and the discharge, and that there was no retaliation as a matter of law because the district court granted Allstate's pretrial motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim under the Human Rights Act to the extent it was predicated on retaliation. We disagree. When these claims were argued on summary judgment, they did not include the ultimate claim of retaliatory constructive discharge that ripened on February These statutory claims were distinct from Plaintiff's claim of retaliatory constructive discharge, which is a common law claim.
We fail to see how the untimely filing of specific statutory claims under the Human Rights Act translates into the substantive failure of Plaintiff's claim of retaliatory discharge, and the district court did not rule that the facts surrounding the ultimate retaliatory discharge claim were untimely because that matter was not before it. Allstate claims that this amount is excessive and that the district court should have granted remittitur because Plaintiff offered no corroborating evidence in the form of medical diagnosis or treatment, or in the form of testimony that Plaintiff missed work or looked for another job while Aakhus was employed at Allstate.
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Allstate also argues that the district court should have ordered remittitur. In determining whether a jury verdict is excessive, we do not reweigh the evidence but determine whether the verdict is excessive as a matter of law.
The jury's verdict is presumed to be correct. When a [district] court denies a motion for a remittitur, we defer to the trial court's judgment. Plaintiff's expert economist based the present value of Plaintiff's lost pension on the assumption of a normal life expectancy of age It is possible that the jury concluded that Plaintiff would live longer than age However, in that case our Supreme Court was reviewing a district court's order granting remittitur.
The Court properly deferred to the district court's determination, just as we must defer to the district court's denial of remittitur in the present case. See id. Plaintiff and her co-employees testified about the stress Plaintiff suffered as a result of the sexual atmosphere in the office and the conduct of Aakhus. Plaintiff testified that she was frightened for her job, that she feared being alone with Aakhus and took steps to avoid such a scenario, and that Aakhus publicly belittled and berated her.
Her co-workers testified that Aakhus sometimes followed Plaintiff closely and yelled at her and that they saw Plaintiff crying or on the verge of tears many times. Aakhus formally disciplined Plaintiff after she complained about him, and several witnesses testified that Plaintiff's work was exemplary. We will not reweigh the evidence and substitute our judgment for that of the jury.
See Allsup's Convenience Stores, Inc. River Ins. This Court reviews questions of law de novo. We need not address the first sub-argument because we conclude that the evidence supported the view that Allstate authorized, ratified, or participated in Aakhus's misconduct. On the contrary, it worsened, despite numerous complaints to Allstate over the three-year period when Plaintiff's employment overlapped with Aakhus's.
See Aken v. Plains Elec. We conduct an independent, de novo assessment of the award. In effect, we are reviewing the award for reasonableness. Chavarria v.
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Fleetwood Retail Corp. In undertaking this review we consider three criteria:. Although Allstate management investigated these complaints, it did nothing further about Aakhus until nearly two years later, in May Campbell, U. Here, the ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages is 3. This is within the range deemed by the Supreme Court to be consistent with due process.
This is in part because there may be some categories of conduct for which there is no significant statutory guidance as to what sanctions should be imposed for the conduct. We can find no legislative guidance as to the civil or criminal sanctions that might be imposed for sexual harassment or retaliatory discharge.
We doubt that Aakhus's misconduct could be characterized as any type of crime, but this does not render his behavior less reprehensible.
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On the civil side, the legislature, via the Human Rights Act, has clearly condemned discrimination, but it has not attempted to place a monetary valuation on recovery for violations of the Act. This does not signify to us that discriminatory behavior is considered to be minimally sanctionable. To the contrary, it indicates the legislature's willingness to leave the assessment of reasonable compensation to the fact finder, whether the fact finder is the human rights commission or a court of law.
Consequently, we deem the third criterion to be neutral. Because the other two criteria convince us of the reasonableness of the punitive damages award, we affirm the award. We remand this issue to the district court to determine whether to make such an award and, if so, in what amount. By submitting this form, you agree to FindLaw. We respect your privacy. Thank you for subscribing! Explore Resources For Practice Management.
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Legal Technology. Corporate Counsel. Reset A A Font size: Print. Court of Appeals of New Mexico. O'Friel, Ltd. Holm, Jennifer A. Noya, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellant. This rule provides: When, after an event, measures are taken which, if taken previously, would have made the event less likely to occur, evidence of the subsequent measures is not admissible to prove negligence or culpable conduct in connection with the event. The jury in this case was instructed that [w]hether the environment constituted a sexually hostile work environment is determined by looking at the totality of the circumstances, including the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, the severity of the conduct, whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating or a mere offensive utterance, and whether it unreasonably interfered with an employee's work performance.
The district court instructed the jury: You may consider that [Plaintiff] was constructively discharged from her employment if you find that Defendant Allstate Insurance Company made her working conditions so intolerable, when viewed objectively, that a reasonable person would be compelled to resign, and she had no other choice but to quit.
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