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Judge reduces jury award in case against Nationwide



Published: Tue, April 16, 2013 @ 9:55 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A judge has overruled a Nationwide Insurance Co. motion for a new trial of Christine Lucarell vs. Nationwide Insurance Co., unless Lucarell, a former Nationwide agent, wants one on the issue of damage amounts alone.

In Monday’s judgment entry, visiting Judge Thomas J. Pokorny of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, who presided over last fall’s trial, reduced the award from the $42.8 million granted by the eight-man jury to $14.517 million.

In overruling the company’s motion for a new trial, Judge Pokorny wrote: “The court cannot find that the evidence presented by the plaintiff or arguments of counsel inflamed the passion or prejudice” of the jury. “The jury has apparently viewed the defendant’s acts with a high degree of reprehensibility,” the judge added.

In her civil lawsuit, Lucarell, of Boardman, alleged the Columbus-based insurance giant 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.

“There are over 400 other agents across the country who experienced the same thing that happened to me, and now the gate is open for them” to pursue their claims against Nationwide, Lucarell said, adding that she feels “vindicated” by the judge’s decision.

Lucarell said she will discuss with her lawyer, Caryn Groedel of Cleveland, whether she will seek a new trial on the issue of damage amounts.

In a prepared statement, Nationwide said it was pleased with the reduction of the award, but it disagrees with the verdict, believes errors in the trial improperly affected the outcome of the case and intends to appeal the verdict to the 7th District Court of Appeals.

Also Monday, Judge Pokorny also overruled Nationwide’s motion for cancellation of the verdict and set attorney fees of $187,546 and expenses of $21,558 to be paid by Nationwide to Lucarell if the verdict is upheld on appeal.

Judge Pokorny has stayed all payments from Nationwide to Lucarell pending appeal.


Comments

1ytownjustice12(5 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

The media seems to forget a key issue regarding this case, Shelley Aaserud, the former business consultant for Nationwide who was found to be credible by the jury and most certainly qualified to testify as an expert in this case. Why has Nationwide tried so hard to keep her quiet going as far as suing her in an attempt to keep her from testifying and why don't we ever read about her in the paper? I have my thoughts on this and I'm sure the public can figure it out too.

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2mgreenz(1 comment)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Let's see here, the Judge calls Nationwide's actions in this case "reprehensible" in his ruling. He absolves Ms. Lucarell of the bogus perjury charge brought against her, and he rules for the expert witness for the plaintiff, Ms. Asserud, who testified as to the criminal activities and knowledge of that that Nationwide perpetrated on over 400 agents. The facts are what they are. Nationwide believes they can use their size and leverage to hide.

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3rmzrez(129 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

And who said you can not BUY justice.
They just did !!!!!

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4ytownjustice12(5 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Some thoughts from the woman who is fighting for all of the victims of Nationwide out there:
Winner of Nationwide Suit Takes Reduction in Stride
BOARDMAN, Ohio -- People who don’t know Christine Lucarell well are surprised at her serenity about Judge Thomas J. Pokorny’s reduction of the $42.8 million in damages a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court jury awarded her.
“Money has not been my paramount concern,” the former agent for Nationwide Insurance says. Her suit against her former employer, Lucarell elaborates, “was about much more than a dollar figure. We’ve exposed Nationwide for what they’ve been doing [to agents like her] over several years -- and continue to do.”
Lucarell said her suit “is about justice and the lives that have been adversely affected by the actions of Nationwide Insurance.”
Lucarell expressed confidence in Pokorny’s fairness and thoroughness, saying she understands he followed and applied the law after reviewing her case and listening to oral arguments Feb. 19 and 20.
Lindsmith repeatedly accused Lucarell and Shelley Aaserud, the expert witness who testified in her behalf, of perjury. The judge labeled Lindsmith’s characterization of Aaserud as “unfounded in the record. The expert was subjected to extensive discovery depositions and cross-examination at trial. … The defense was given ample opportunity to discredit her. The jury apparently found her credible.”
As to Lucarell’s testimony, “The Court finds no support in the record that plaintiff’s testimony was untruthful ….” Lucarell was particularly upset at accusations that she had converted funds that Nationwide advanced her to build her practice to her personal use, including fertility treatments.
“He [Lindsmith] said many things that weren’t true,” Lucarell said. “I could not wait to get up on the witness stand. I was looking forward to it.”
She had had difficulty conceiving, she told a reporter, but as a devout Roman Catholic, did nothing out of the ordinary to become pregnant. She and her husband “prayed with our priest” and made trips to the National Shrine in North Jackson. “I ended up being blessed by this baby,” she said in her dining room.
Her daughter, who turned 2 last Jan. 31, is “a gift from God,” Lucarell said. “I feel God answered my prayers with the baby.”
As she prepared for trial and during the trial, Lucarell said, she prayed again for strength and is grateful that, as Pokorny wrote, “The jury has apparently viewed the defendant’s acts with a high degree of reprehensibility.”
Lucarell says this was the point she was most concerned about, that the agency executive program continues unchanged. “I hope to see other people receiving justice for what they’ve been through,” she said. “I hope I opened the door for them and that I can cheer them on.”

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