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Jury awards woman $42.8M in civil suit



Published: Tue, November 6, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By John W. Goodwin Jr.

jgoodwin@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A jury awarded a Boardman woman $42.8 million in total damages in a civil suit against her former employer, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. of Columbus.

Christine Lucarell sued the insurance giant in Mahoning County 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 before visiting Judge Thomas J. Pokorny.

Lucarell was in tears after hearing the jury’s damages awards.

The eight-member, all-male jury spent two weeks listening to evidence in the case before returning a finding in Lucarell’s favor Monday afternoon.

Lucarell had been seeking $5 million in compensatory damages and an undetermined amount in punitive damages.

Nationwide’s lawyer said the company will appeal the damages awards.

The breakdown for the compensatory damages was $5.7 million in lost profits, $1 million in emotional damages, and $100,000 for retaliation.

The award for punitive damages was $36 million.

After jurors announced the compensatory award, attorneys for both sides spoke to them about punitive damages. Judge Pokorny told jurors that any punitive finding would be to punish Nationwide and discourage similar activity in the future.

Caryn Groedel, representing Lucarell, restated a list of wrongs she says Nationwide did to her client meriting a stiff punitive finding.

“This type of fraud and manipulation entitles Christine to punitive damages and more than that to punish the defendants for what they did. ... This was not an accident,” she said.

Groedel asked jurors to award Lucarell one-twelfth of Nationwide’s $386 million annual net profits in punitive damages.

Quintin Lindsmith, representing Nationwide, said his client did nothing to the plaintiff that would warrant punitive damages.

“It’s one thing to say Nationwide screwed up ... but it’s another thing to say Nationwide did it with malice or ill will. That’s not the case,” he said.

Lucarell, who has worked in the insurance industry for 20 years, said she was one of about 400 Nationwide agents who participated in the company’s three-year agency executive program.

Nationwide told her she could earn more than $200,000 in annual commissions by participating in the program and that agents successfully completing the program could become independent insurance agents, Lucarell said in her civil lawsuit.

Even though her agency was profitable, Nationwide stopped financing Lucarell’s Boardman agency in April 2009 and forced her to resign in July of that year, Lucarell said.

Nationwide terminated about 90 percent of its agency executive agencies, including Lucarell’s, “using unsustainable monthly production quotas to withhold financing from the agencies and then terminating them once the agents had generated a profitable book of business,” the suit said.

Nationwide denied Lucarell’s allegations and said Lucarell was an independent contractor, not a company employee.

Nationwide acknowledged that Lucarell “needed to achieve certain production goals” to obtain loan disbursements from the company. However, the company’s lawyers said in a trial brief: “Plaintiff’s damages, if any, were not caused by Nationwide, but rather were self-inflicted and caused by her own business decisions.”


Comments

1parker2004(2 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

There is absoulutly no way you or anyone else is derserving of this type of settlement. You would of never been able to earn this amount of money in your lifetime. Shame on that Jury! People who know you know that your family has NOT suffered financially. A look into your life style demonstrates you have been living quite well.

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2uetz(38 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Someone sounds jealous ...

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3jimmy2235(8 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

poor business decision not nationwide she lost her rental property due to the fact she took the rent and forgot to pay the mortgage i belive its a bad buisness decision i feel bad for her renters who lost there security deposit and home i hope they sue her for damages

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4endthismess(288 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Good for this woman winning. This message should be heard loud and clear...people are sick and tired of getting screwdred over and will take these big fat beastly cheating companies to court.

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5ytownjustice12(5 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Jimmy - I'm tired of your offensive, slanderous comments about this person! I have known this family for years and you keep posting vicious lies out of spite and/or jealousy. None of what you have said is true and you know it. Thank God for the justice system and jurors deciding cases on facts and evidence! I also know what you posted about this so called rental home to be a lie as well. The person that lived there never paid a deposit and was asked to move several times but didn't want to. If you keep it up, I hope she sues YOU for these outrageous lies. It is obvious you created this account to attack her since all of your comments are to her. Jealousy is ugly and you are plain sickening! Crawl back in the hole you slithered out of and get a life! The same goes for this Parker person who obviously created an account for this. You must be friends and since I see this family quite often, I know they don't have a life of luxury but I hope they will now!

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