Siding with an Orrick appellate and employment team, a California state appeals court today overturned a $13 million jury verdict against the University of California at Los Angeles involving a former medical professor’s age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit, finding the 2018 trial was marred by prejudicial errors. In a published decision, a unanimous Second District Court of Appeals panel found the “errors constituted a miscarriage of justice and created an atmosphere in which UCLA did not receive a fair trial.”
The ruling stems from an age and gender bias lawsuit brought against UCLA and the UC Regents by Lauren Pinter-Brown, an oncologist and professor at UCLA. Pinter-Brown’s lawsuit alleged she was subject to workplace harassment based on age and gender discrimination, and was later retaliated against for raising complaints to university leadership. UCLA disputed the allegations at trial.
A jury rejected the plaintiff’s age bias claim, but found UCLA liable for gender discrimination and retaliation and awarded $13 million in damages.
However, our team, led by partner Eric Shumsky, who argued the case, highlighted fundamental legal errors by the trial court that undermined the fairness of the proceedings. This included allowing the introduction of unrelated evidence of discrimination complaints in the UC system, general allegations of racial discrimination on the UCLA campus and calls by the judge for the jury to consider civil rights figures and “stand in the shoes of Dr. Martin Luther King and bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”
“Unfortunately, the trial court committed a series of grave errors that significantly prejudiced The Regents’ right to a fair trial by an impartial judge,” the court wrote.
In addition to Eric, the Orrick team included partner Jessica Perry, and associates Jeremy Peterman, Elizabeth Moulton and Evan Rose. Our team also collaborated with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius on the case.