California Team Secures Significant Appellate Win in Alleged Sexual Assault Matter

San Diego, Calif. (February 23, 2022) - San Diego Appellate Partner Lann G. McIntyre, along with Los Angeles Partners Melissa T. Daugherty, Ashleigh R. Kasper, and Kerri R. Lutfey, recently secured an appellate victory when the California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, affirmed a jury verdict that had dismissed a suit against Lewis Brisbois' masseur client who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a massage.

As reported in the Law360 article "Equinox Keeps Trial Win In Ex-Worker's Sex Assault Suit," the plaintiff in the underlying matter was a Pilates instructor at Equinox's fitness facility in West Hollywood, California. She regularly received massages from Lewis Brisbois' client. After one massage, however, she reported him to the luxury fitness company for inappropriately touching her. The plaintiff also reported his alleged conduct to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, but later failed to attend meetings where she would have been asked to identify him from a line-up and provide additional statements. As such, the investigation was dropped.

In addition, the plaintiff was put on medical leave after her psychologist determined that she was temporarily disabled due to the incident. However, she was ultimately terminated after several extensions of that disability status. She subsequently filed suit for wrongful termination and assault. Following the trial of the case, the jury returned a defense verdict, finding that Lewis Brisbois' client had not inappropriately touched the plaintiff and that Equinox had shown that she was unable to do her job with reasonable accommodations.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the trial court erred in its decisions to allow testimony from the sheriff's department about the dropped investigation and to limit “me too” testimony from other women who alleged that the masseur had assaulted them. The appellate court, however, determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by limiting testimony from the other women who allegedly had been touched inappropriately by the masseur. Moreover, the three-judge panel also found that the lower court was within its discretion to permit testimony from law enforcement officials regarding the plaintiff's refusal to aid a criminal investigation into the incident. As such, the appellate court affirmed the defense verdict.

Ms. McIntyre has over 35 years of experience first as a civil litigator and then as an appellate specialist. She represents both public and private clients in civil writs, appeals, and mandate proceedings. Certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as a specialist in appellate law, she has briefed and argued cases in the Third, Fifth, and Ninth Circuit as well as in every appellate court in California. Ms. McIntyre is also one of fewer than 40 attorneys certified as an appellate specialist in San Diego County.

Ms. Daugherty serves as vice-chair of Lewis Brisbois' Labor & Employment Practice and chair of its ADA Compliance & Defense Practice. Her practice focuses on matters involving wrongful termination and retaliatory discharge, employment discrimination and harassment, as well as issues arising under federal employment laws. She also has extensive experience in providing employment counseling to clients, including policy and handbook drafting, employment practices audits, and seminar presentations.

Ms. Kasper is a member of Lewis Brisbois' Labor & Employment Practice. She has experience defending employers in a variety of individual and multi-plaintiff lawsuits and pre-litigation claims, including for workplace discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. She also defends employers in wage and hour class actions, represents employers in PAGA actions, provides counseling to employers in personnel matters, and drafts policies and procedures on behalf of employers.

Ms. Lutfey is also member of the Labor & Employment Practice. She has significant litigation experience defending employers in individual and multi-plaintiff lawsuits regarding workplace discrimination, harassment, failure to accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage and hour claims. She also assists clients with pre-litigation resolution of employee disputes and has extensive experience in providing employment counseling to clients, including policy and handbook drafting.

You may read the full Law360 article here (subscription may be required).

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