A federal jury in Illinois may have awarded the highest verdict ever for a single-plaintiff sexual harassment case, although the verdict will likely be reduced to a “mere” $45 million because of federal statutory limits, according to plaintiff’s counsel. The verdict is against Aaron’s, Inc., a rent-to-own furniture store, and is comprised of $15 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages.
Plaintiff told the jury that the branch’s general manager commented on her breasts, groped them, smacked her in the head with his penis, and masturbated on her chest while restraining her.
Plaintiff said that her call to the company’s sexual-harassment hotline went unreturned.
Aaron’s says it will appeal and called the jury “runaway”; however, plaintiff’s counsel pointed out that the jury deliberated for nearly three days.
My prediction? The verdict will stand, within the statutory limits. The complained-of conduct was extremely egregious and of a long duration, and it would appear that the jury found that Aaron’s Inc. knew about it through the hotline but failed to do anything, given the punitive damages award.