Ohio Tort Reform caps emotional and punitive damage award in case filed by ex-agent against it’s former employer Nationwide Insurance alleging predatory practices and fraud. Nationwide requests new trial while other agents plan class action lawsuit.
In 2010, Christine Lucarell filed a lawsuit in Ohio’s Mahoning County Common Pleas Court alleging that Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. used predatory tactics to lead her into working as an agent for company, only to set her up for failure. Lucarell alleges that she was one of 400 agents who completed the company’s three-year Nationwide Insurance Executive program, under the premise that the program would allow agents to earn over $200,000. However, the lawsuit alleges that following the program, Nationwide implemented “unsustainable monthly production quotas to withhold financing from the agencies and then terminating them once the agents had generated a profitable book of business.” (http://www.vindy.com/news/2012/nov/06/jury-awards-woman-m-in-civil-suit/)
Lucarell says in court documents that the actions of the company caused to her lose her home and car, and destroyed her credit. These actions included transferring accounts created by Lucarell, equally some $1.8 million worth of business, to a company call center. Lucarell accuses Nationwide of invasion of privacy, fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of contract, and constructive discharge and retaliation. (http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2012/11/07/ohio-jury-smacks-nationwide.html)
Ohio Tort Reform Limits Damage Award
Lucarells case was heard by a jury of eight men and argued for two weeks. The jury awarded punitive damages to Lucarell in the amount of $20 million for constructive discharge, $11 million for retaliation, and $5 million for misappropriation of her name. Compensatory damages were awarded for lost damages ($5.7 million), retaliation ($100,000), and finally, $1 million was awarded for emotional damages.
Judge Thomas J. Pokorny however reduced the emotional and punitive damages in the case saying that a 2005 Ohio Tort Reform law, the state limits the amount of damages that can be awarded in tort actions. Judge Pokorny reduced the non-economic damage award by $100,000 and the punitive retaliation award from $11 million to $800,000.
Nationwide Disagrees with Verdict as Class Action Lawsuit is Planned
Seven other former Nationwide agents have come together to file a class action lawsuit against the company alleging that they too were victims of the company’s predatory practices and fraud, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
A company public relations consultant told Vindy that Nationwide disagrees with the verdict and is “asking the judge to reverse the verdict in our favor, or alternatively, to grant us a new trial.”
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