A jury Wednesday awarded $1.95 million in punitive damages to a paralegal who alleged she was fired for complaining that an attorney sexually harassed her during a work-related retreat in Colorado in 2015.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for about two hours before reaching a verdict in the second phase of trial in Soledad Albarracin’s lawsuit against the two companies she sued, Fidelity National Management Services Inc. and Fidelity National Financial Inc. On April 13, the jury awarded Albarracin $250,000 in compensatory damages against the companies after finding true her claims for wrongful termination, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The second phase of trial was triggered after the jury found that attorney Robert Gardner Wilson was an agent of the two companies and that he engaged in conduct exhibiting malice, oppression or fraud. Testimony in the punitive damages phase did not begin until Wednesday because some jurors had other commitments in between Wednesday and the previous verdict.
Lawyers for the two companies denied Albarracin was sexually harassed or that they failed to investigate her claims.
According to Albarracin’s court papers, she worked as a major claims paralegal for the entities from November 2014 to November 2015. One of the lawyers to whom she reported was Wilson.
All lawyers and paralegals in the major claims department went to Colorado Springs in September 2015 for a training and team-building retreat. Albarracin alleged that Wilson followed her up a set of stairs at the hotel where they were staying and twice tried to kiss her, once brushing part of his face against hers.
Albarracin, who felt “terrified and “feared the worst,” then “grabbed the side of his arms, pushed him backwards as hard and fast as she could until she reached the front of his hotel room door, saying, `This is your room, I am going to my room,”’ according to the plaintiff’s court papers.