Last week, Carney Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates secured a major jury verdict in Los Angeles Superior Court. The firm won more than $28 million in punitive damages for dental worker Codie Rael, a 58-year-old woman from Ontario. This punitive award comes on top of more than $3 million in compensatory damages already awarded to Rael last week in the same case, for a total of about $31.1 million. The punitive award is believed to be the largest of its kind in the county.
During the trial, the jury learned that Rael had been subjected to repeated harassment and discrimination over the years on the basis of her age as well as her sex. She had been told things like “you are outdated” and “we need younger workers in here,” and was given increased workloads. She was also denied training, support, and career advancement that were offered to younger colleagues. She attributed much of the abuse to her two immediate supervisors.
Ultimately the pressure compelled Rael to quit.
Shegerian summarized the situation when he told the jury, “This wasn’t some accident that a whole department was wiped out and replaced by people younger and cheaper.”
The jury agreed. Its historic award of $28 million in punitive damages is believed to be intended to send a message to other companies who may be committing the same crimes: Age discrimination may be widespread, but the laws against it are crystal clear.
The victory is also a significant one for Shegerian himself, who, after winning a $26 million age discrimination verdict for a separate case in 2014, now has the two top such verdicts in the history of Los Angeles.
Rael had worked in the dental industry for over 35 years for a pair of companies owned by the Danaher Corporation: Sybron Dental Specialties Inc. and KaVo Kerr Group. Of the $28 million verdict, Sybron was ordered to pay $16 million and KaVo Kerr $12 million. The full verdict found them guilty of age discrimination, age harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination.
Another Shegerian & Associates discrimination verdict was reported in April.