United States: Court upholds $ 4.26 million jury prize for “self-published defamation”
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Tilkey v. Allstate Ins. Co., 2020 WL 6268474 (Cal. Ct. App. 2020)
Allstate fired Michael Tilkey, a 30-year-old employee who sold life insurance, after Tilkey was arrested in Arizona over a family dispute with his girlfriend; he was arrested for “degradation of criminal damage, possession or use of drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct, disruptive behavior”. Charges of domestic violence were joined to the charges of criminal damage and disorderly conduct. Following an investigation, Allstate terminated Tilkey’s employment for “engaging in threatening behavior and / or acts of physical violence or violence against any person, whether or not employed by Allstate ”. Tilkey sued Allstate for wrongful termination, violation of Cal. Laboratory. Code § 432.7 (which prohibits an employer from considering as a factor in employment decisions “any record of arrest … which has not resulted in a conviction”) and forced and self-published defamation.
The jury awarded Tilkey $ 2.7 million in compensatory damages and $ 16 million in punitive damages. The Court of Appeal reversed in part, finding that Allstate did not violate Section 432.7 because Tilkey had appeared in Arizona court and pleaded guilty, which constituted a “conviction” within the meaning of the law. . The court upheld the jury’s verdict on the libel action, finding that Tilkey had been forced to “publish himself” a statement about him which was not substantially true after Allstate provided a written explanation of termination on a U-5 form at FINRA. Finally, the court reduced the punitive damages to $ 2.55 million (1.5 times the compensatory damages of $ 1.7 million for defamation). See also Garcia-Brower v. Premier Auto. California Imports, LLC, 55 cal. App. 5e 961 (2020) (employer may have violated section 432.7 for firing an employee who did not disclose a rejected conviction for theft).
Court upholds $ 4.26 million jury prize for “self-published defamation”
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