LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A woman who said she was sexually harassed in the workplace by a self-proclaimed billionaire hologram producer and fired in 2016 because she refused to have sex with him was awarded $8 million in punitive damages today, bringing the plaintiff's total winnings to a little more than $11 million.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before reaching the punitive damages verdict in favor of Chasity Jones and against her former employer, Alki David.
Earlier today, Judge Rafael Ongkeko ordered jurors to go back and consider compensatory damages in the wake of the jury forewoman's statement Thursday that an error had been made in awarding the original amount of nearly $4.6 million. The panel deliberated for less than an hour before revising the amount downward to $3.09 million.
The panel then heard evidence on punitive damages. Jones' lead attorney, Lisa Bloom, called her daughter, a fellow lawyer, to the stand to describe for jurors several videos, most of them on YouTube, depicting David boasting about being a billionaire.
Bloom said tax returns showed David, heir to a Coca-Cola bottling fortune, had holdings in multiple companies worth millions of dollars. She recommended that the panel award $30 million in punitive damages as punishment for his conduct.
Defense attorney Ellyn Garafolo argued that David was promoting himself in the video. She said neither his remarks nor the tax statements prove David is a billionaire and urged that no punitive damages be awarded to Jones, who worked for two of his companies, Hologram USA and FilmOn.TV.
Garofalo said Friday that David will appeal because the evidence did not support the verdicts.
In her final argument Thursday on compensatory damages, Bloom said David's outburst in front of them during his testimony on Tuesday summed up the kind of person he is in the workplace. David verbally attacked Jones and left the courtroom under the escort of a deputy sheriff.
Bloom said this afternoon that she was confident the verdicts will be upheld on appeal. She also said she was not frightened by David's conduct on Tuesday.
``I am trained in self-defense and I could have taken him down,'' Bloom said. ``I think he was frightened of me because he left the courtroom.''
David was behind the hologram technology that brought slain rapper Tupac Shakur to Coachella in 2012 and saw the late Michael Jackson moonwalk at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.
Jones, a 42-year-old single mother, testified in the trial that she worked as a sales accountant for two of David's companies, Hologram USA and FilmOn.TV. She said David inappropriately touched her and showed her a pornographic video on her work computer. She also said the 51-year-old defendant brought a male stripper into the workplace to celebrate the birthday of one of his executives. She said she found the stripper's appearance offensive and considered it sexual harassment.
Jones said she was hired in January 2015 and fired in November 2016 for refusing to have sex with David.
Jones and another former sales accountant, Elizabeth Taylor, sued David in February 2017. Taylor's similar allegations against the Beverly Hills resident will be tried later.
The compensatory damages verdict found liability on the part of David, Hologram USA and FilmOn.TV. The jury also found that the defendants acted with malice, fraud or oppression, triggering the second phase of trial to determine if Jones should be awarded punitive damages.
The punitive damages verdict was assessed only against David.
Bloom said Jones will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder for life because of what she endured while working for David.
But Garofalo told jurors that Jones never made any allegations against David until after she was fired and actually praised him in a birthday wish and in social media posts. Jones also denied in a declaration that David harassed her, Garofalo said.