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LOS ANGELES - Two San Diego women who shared in one of the largest sexual harassment jury awards in U.S. history agreed on Thursday to accept a reduced award of $4.5 million from Ralphs Grocery Co., Reuters reported. Four other women who shared in the initial $30 million verdict will press ahead with a third trial in hopes of reversing the trial judge's decision to sharply reduce their award, their attorney said.
Dianne Gober, a Ralphs bookkeeper, and cashier Tina Swann decided to accept that reduced award because they wanted to put the experience behind them, said their attorney, John W. Dalton of San Diego. The April 5 verdict against Ralphs, a unit of The Kroger Co., was the largest jury award in a sexual harassment case in California history and among the top three in the nation.
But on July 15, the trial judge reduced the punitive damages award to $8.25 million, saying the women's attorneys had not proven that the supermarket chain had condoned the conduct of Roger Misiolek, a store director in Escondido, California.
Gober accepted an award of $3 million and Swann accepted $1.5 million, their lawyer said.
The women, who worked at the Escondido store, contended that Misiolek verbally harassed and physically assaulted them by throwing things such as telephones and clipboards at them between July 1995 and April 1996. Ralphs corporate offices were unresponsive to their complaints, they contended.
The trial ordeal for the women began in 2000 when a jury found in their favor and awarded them a total of $550,000 in actual damages and $3.8 million in punitive damages. But the judge threw out the punitive damages award because one of the jurors was a Kroger shareholder.
At a second trial in April this year dealing only with punitive damages, the women were awarded the record-setting $30 million by a jury. But that sum was reduced to $8.25 million by a judge earlier this month who said it had not been proved that Ralphs had condoned Misiolek's conduct towards them.