Farmers Insurance has been ordered to pay $5.4 million to a former staff attorney who alleged he was the victim of wrongful termination and retaliation when he was fired in 2016.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for a day before finding in favor of 69-year-old Andrew Rudnicki and against Farmers Insurance Exchange and Farmers Group Inc. on Tuesday.
The panel also concluded that an officer, director or managing agent of at least one of the defendants acted with malice, oppression or fraud against Rudnicki, triggering a second phase of trial to begin Thursday on whether the plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages.
Rudnicki alleged he was fired because he was blamed for the adverse results of a gender inequity suit against Farmers and due to complaints about him that were made to the human resources department, according to his court papers. Rudnicki was a witness in the gender case.
Rudnick’s firing ended a 37-year career with the insurer.
“I felt crushed and experienced shock, depression and embarassment for a long time thereafter,” Rudnicki said in a sworn declaration. “I also endured fitful sleep and loss of appetite for at least three or four months.”
In her court papers, defense attorney Lynne C. Hermle said Rudnicki was fired after he disobeyed his supervisor’s instructions to behave appropriately and stop making make insensitive and inappropriate comments, including “girlish figure” and “lesbian quota.”