It didn't take long for the California Supreme Court's big employment discrimination decision, Harris v. City of Santa Monica, to prompt a request for a new trial.
Thursday afternoon -- less than seven hours after the high court issued Harris -- attorneys for Lucasfilm Ltd. incorporated the decision into a brief seeking relief from a $1.27 million pregnancy discrimination judgment.
In Veronese v. Lucasfilm, the First District Court of Appeal has already reversed the judgment obtained by Julie Gilman Veronese, ruling that the trial judge failed to instruct the jury on the business judgment rule, among other things. Veronese, represented by Altshuler Berzon and the Law Offices of Mayor Joseph L. Alioto and Angela Alioto, petitioned for review to the Supreme Court last month.
Lucasfilm filed its answer on Thursday. Among several reasons for denying review, it noted the jury was instructed with CACI 2500, which let it rule for Veronese if discrimination was a motivating factor in the employment action. "On Feb. 7, 2013, in Harris v. City of Santa Monica, No. S1081004, this court held that CACI 2500 is wrong," wrote attorneys Steven Drapkin of the Law Offices of Steven Drapkin and Paul Cane of Paul Hastings in their answer filed Feb. 7.
Because Harris requires that discrimination be a substantial motivating factor, Lucasfilm is entitled to a new trial, even if the Supreme Court were to agree with Veronese about the business judgment instruction, they contend.
It's not clear how much relief Harris might ultimately convey to Lucasfilm, if a new trial were ordered on that ground. Of the $1.27 million awarded to Veronese, $1.15 million was for attorneys fees. And even post-Harris, Veronese could make a claim for fees.