A fired Blue Shield executive’s court battle that featured lots of sexy testimony and racy pictures about the plaintiff’s ex-girlfriend, raunchy ‘American Pie’ actress Tara Reid, finally ended Friday as the jury ruled against the insurance company’s former worker.
Jurors rejected a claim by a former Blue Shield of California executive who once dated Reid that he was owed thousands of dollars in bonus money he earned before he was fired in March 2015.
However, the same Los Angeles Superior Court panel also denied any damages to the insurer in its countersuit, finding that the actions of plaintiff Aaron Kaufman caused no harm to the company.
The jury deliberated for less than a half day before reaching its findings.
The 40-year-old Kaufman said later outside the courtroom that BSC “had no (valid) cross-complaint,” but he declined further comment. His attorney, David Peter Cwiklo, said he will review for a possible appeal Judge Mark Mooney’s decision Tuesday to eliminate three of the four causes of action in Kaufman’s case based on the evidence presented during the plaintiff’s case.
“No decision has been made,” Cwiklo said.
BSC attorney Barry Lee said he was pleased with the jury’s finding in favor of his client on the plaintiff’s claim, but said he was still “trying to get a handle” on why the panel came to the conclusions it did on the countersuit, the allegations of which included intentional and negligent misrepresentation, concealment and that Kaufman put his interests ahead of those of his employer.
Kaufman was hired in March 2013 as BSC’s vice president and chief technology officer at an annual salary of $350,000. He originally alleged he was fired in retaliation for reporting that his boss, Michael Mathias, might have been taking kickbacks from a vendor in a data collection project.
But Mooney dismissed that part of his case and two other causes of action and said jurors could only decide if Kaufman was wrongfully denied a scheduled bonus.
Blue Shield’s countersuit against Kaufman asked the jury to find that he should reimburse the company nearly $87,000 that Lee said the plaintiff owed the insurer.
Kaufman used his corporate credit card while spending time with Reid and other girlfriends during his two years with BSC while going on lavish vacations and visiting trendy bars and swanky restaurants, according to Lee.
Lee said BSC’s reputation was hurt because of photos taken of Reid during a team-building event Kaufman organized. One of the photos depicted the “American Pie” actress straddling two bowling balls at the Lucky Strike Lanes in San Francisco in January 2015 while wearing only her bra from the waist up.
Even though Kaufman denied taking the photos, was not shown in any of them and there was no mention of BSC in the images, he was responsible for the participants’ conduct, Lee said.
Reid stated in a video deposition shown jurors that she believed the plaintiff or one of his friends took the pictures. BSC human resources chief Mary O’Hara testified that the photos caused negative conversation within the company and unwanted publicity.
One of Kaufman’s questionable expenses was for a trip to Australia in 2014, where he claimed to have attended an Australian Medical Association conference at the G20 summit, according to BSC’s lawyers.
Mathias testified that he approved Kaufman’s flight expenses to Australia, thinking that his subordinate was attending the conference. In reality there was no health-related event at the summit, according to BSC attorneys, who say Kaufman actually went to join Reid during a premiere of her movie, “Charlie’s Farm.”
Lee said Kaufman “couldn’t keep his story straight” when explaining the Australian trip.
“Would anybody say this termination for cause wasn’t right?” Lee asked jurors Thursday during final arguments. “Of course it was.”
—City News Service