Nationwide files motions against $42 million judgement

Nationwide takes issue with $42 million judgement

By John W. Goodwin Jr.


Christine Lucarell walked away from the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court with a $42.8 million verdict against Nationwide Insurance.

Now, the company is asking for a new trial, claiming lies were told to jurors and citing other procedural irregularities.

Lucarell sued the insurance giant in common pleas court, alleging Nationwide enrolled her in an agency-executive program, then withheld financing from her agency and made her working conditions so intolerable she was forced to quit.

The case was heard in early November before visiting Judge Thomas J. Pokorny.

The eight-member, all-male jury spent two weeks listening to evidence in the case before returning a finding in Lucarell’s favor. She had sought $5 million in compensatory damages and an undetermined amount in punitive damages, but the jury exceeded that amount, granting Lucarell $36 million in punitive damages and $6.8 million in compensatory damages.

Attorneys for Nationwide on Thursday filed several motions in court asking the judge to set aside the verdict and enter a finding on their behalf. The company claims Lucarell perjured herself on the witness stand and there were other procedural matters that all led to the jury verdict.

“It is not hard to get a jury inflamed with testimony rife with perjury. It is not hard to get a jury inflamed when the defendant is blocked from being able to fully and fairly put the complete story of what happened here — a story that Lucarell took hundreds of thousands of dollars from Nationwide, blew it ... and then falsely declared herself a victim,” the filing said.

Atty. Caryn Groedel, representing Lucarell said the motions have virtually no merit and deal with issues already addressed by the court during and immediately after the trial.

“They have no grounds for a new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict,” she said. “The judge was exceedingly judicious on his rulings during trial and with any objections made following the trial.”

Groedel said the request for the judge to set aside the verdict would mean that the court must find that looking at all the evidence presented the jury still got it wrong. That is a burden, she said, that Nationwide cannot meet.

“With all the evidence against Nationwide, it is unfathomable that they would even file this,” she said. “They are trying to grasp at any straws at the last minute to save the day.”

Nationwide, in its filings, claims there were multiple irregularities during the trial including the judge “coaching” Lucarell’s attorneys on how to better present their case, time limits placed on the cross-examination of Lucarell, and the enforcement of invalid subpoenas against Nationwide employees and retirees.

The filing also says Lucarell claims Nationwide forced her into financial ruin, yet she purchased a second home, bought two new cars, installed fencing, bought a trailer and underwent elective surgery while never producing any records giving an account of the company money given to her.

Nationwide also claims Lucarell perjured herself concerning a car she said was repossessed without her knowledge because of poor finances stemming from the situation with Nationwide.

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