A 58-year-old Ontario woman already awarded $3 million in her age discrimination case is entitled to an additional collective award of about $73 million from two subsidiaries of Danaher Corp., an attorney told a jury Tuesday, but a defense lawyer said the companies got the panel’s message with their first verdict.
The lawyers gave their arguments during the punitive damages phase of Codie Rael’s Los Angeles Superior Court trial, which was triggered when the jury found that Danaher subsidiaries Sybron Dental Specialities Inc. and KaVo Kerr Group acted with malice, oppression or fraud against the Ontario woman.
“This wasn’t some accident that a whole department was wiped out and replaced by people younger and cheaper,” plaintiff’s attorney Carney Shegerian said. “What you’ve realized in your verdict, they’ve known for years.”
In addition, the companies are “acknowledging zero wrongdoing,” Shegerian said.
However, defense attorney Jon Meer said the first verdict was received by management at the highest levels of the companies and that those responsible for the multimillion-dollar award will “have a stain on their personal records for the rest of their lives.”
The first verdict “hit us hard and has got our attention,” Meer said.
Meer repeatedly interrupted Shegerian for showing the jury slides detailing civil rights laws dating back to 1866, saying such information was not relevant and that his clients should not be blamed for something 150 years ago.
Shegerian said the defense disobeyed three court orders to turn over all the information sought by the plaintiff about the assets of the companies.
After her departure from the companies, Rael got another job that pays more money, according to Meer. The companies have not been sued since and there is no evidence of any ongoing discrimination against older workers, Meer said.
The jury deliberated for about four days before finding in favor of Rael, who said she was subjected to such comments as “you are outdated,” “we need younger workers here,” “you are part of the old culture” and “dumb female.”
Rael said many of the disparaging remarks were made by her direct supervisor, Fernando Estavillo, and his boss, Mark Valiquette. Estavillo testified he did not discriminate against anyone because of their age.
In addition to age discrimination, the jury found true Rael’s causes of action for age harassment, wrongful termination and retaliation.
Rael worked for the various entities from November 1978 until she said she was forced to quit in October 2014. She was a materials buyer and planner during her final two years of employment there.
She testified she worked in various plant locations, including Glendora, San Dimas and Orange.
Washington-based Danaher, known for its Craftsman line of tools, has been a growing player in medical technology. Rael testified that Estavillo became her supervisor in March 2014.
She said he put extreme pressure on her to perform exactly as he demanded or else she would be fired.
After Rael quit because of the stress of her job, she was replaced by a man in his 20s, according to her court papers.
Danaher acquired Sybron, where Rael previously worked, for $2 billion in 2006.