Thursday, January 28, 2016

City Attorney, Robert Tafoya Loses $7.3 Million in Wrongful Termination Case

Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, Plaintiff and Victim of Bikram Choudhury
Picture copyright ABC
The jury awarded the victim and plaintiff, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, an additional $6.4 million in punitive damages. In total, the court found that Bikram Choudhury, infamous founder of Bikram Yoga has to pay $7.3 million to the plaintiff.

The claim was for wrongful termination and sexual harassment, in which Jafa-Bodden claimed that she was fired by Bikram because she was investigating rape claims by him. She also stated that he urinated in front of her. At a later point, he asked her to sleep with him in a hotel.

The one defending Birkam Yoga are also the defenders of the City of Baldwin Park, Robert Nacionales-Tafoya and the law firm of Albright, Yee, and Schmit. As one attorney put it, "It got handed to Tafoya!"

So, time for some legal analysis for the public. I didn't watch the trial, but in general, people may not know what punitive damages are. Although the law states that purpose of punitive damages are to send a message to other evildoers not to repeat such actions, in reality, punitive damages act as a punishment against defendants the the courts find reprehensible.

The actual damages, also called compensatory damages, came out to $924,000 - which would primarily have been for lost wages. But the hefty punitive fee of $6.4 million really tells you that the jury found Bikram and what he did to be reprehensible.

What's most likely going to happen is that the case will be appealed, and the defendant will ask for a reduction of the punitive damages award. While the appeal is pending; however, 10 percent interest will attach to the final the damage amount. So, for example, if the appeal takes three years, but the award is $5 million, the interest will still come out to $1.5 million, totaling over the $6.4 million originally awarded.

It appears that Robert Tafoya chose a poor legal strategy in this case. It'd have been much better for him to settle this case (or convince the client to do it) away from the public eye. Not only will the defendant now have to pay the huge damages, but he's taken a huge public relations hit - which no doubt will affect his future business. What that cost is, nobody knows yet?

In any event, the women I talked to about the case see the plaintiff as a heroine for women's rights. She's someone that showed the world that money doesn't buy your way out of our American justice system.

(I wish the same could be said about holding cities accountable, but that's an article for tomorrow.)

The sad looking Robert Tafoya
Photo shot after losing TRO trial to me.

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