California Team’s Win for AutoZone Lands on Daily Journal’s Top Verdicts of 2023

Los Angeles, Calif. (March 11, 2024) – The Daily Journal recently honored a cross-office team including Orange County and Los Angeles Partner Steven Gatley, Los Angeles Partners Jerry Chang and Raul Martinez, and Los Angeles Associate Ula Chun, naming the team’s complete defense verdict for AutoZone in an age discrimination case one of its top verdicts of 2023. 

The verdict in the case, Pastore v. AutoZone West Inc., was featured in an annual Daily Journal supplement that recognizes the top verdicts of the year on both the plaintiff and defense sides of the bar.

The plaintiff in the case, a 64-year-old commercial driver, had claimed that his store manager at a Palmdale AutoZone store violently slapped, pushed, and tripped him, and would call him derogatory names such as “dinosaur,” “old man,” and “slow motion,” all on account of his age. He alleged the harassment continued for five years on a daily basis, resulting in hundreds of instances of harassment. Represented by prominent plaintiff firm Shegerian & Associates, he sought $9.2 million in damages at trial.

Mr. Gatley told the Daily Journal that age discrimination cases can be difficult to defend, deeming them the “second hardest after bad sexual harassment cases.” However, following an 11-day trial, the jury deliberated for only four hours before returning a complete defense verdict for AutoZone.

Mr. Gatley and Mr. Chang recounted in the article that they presented evidence that the plaintiff had never complained about his supervisor to human resources, as well as witness testimony undercutting the notion that the plaintiff and supervisor had a hostile relationship.

“Our theme was that it was mutual banter, and both engaged in it,” Mr. Chang explained.

Mr. Gatley concluded that fast verdicts are “usually good for the defense.”

Mr. Gatley is a Vice-Chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Labor & Employment Practice and National Chair of the firm’s OSHA Practice, as well as the Administrative Partner for the Orange County office. He has exclusively represented employers for almost 25 years. Mr. Gatley has extensive experience with employment and labor litigation before state and federal courts, as well as various administrative agencies such as the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission, the United States Equal Opportunity Commission, the California State Labor Commissioner, and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board (EDD).

Mr. Chang is a Vice-Chair of the Korean Business & Litigation Practice and a member of the Labor & Employment Practice. He has extensive experience representing employers in litigation. His areas of concentration are wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment, discrimination, and wage and hour matters, including the defense of class action lawsuits.

Ms. Chun is a member of the Labor & Employment and Korean Business & Litigation Practices. She handles a wide variety of litigation cases that focus on claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage & hour disputes. Ms. Chun also has experience representing clients in general liability litigation.

Mr. Martinez is a Vice-Chair of the Appellate Practice. His practice also involves appellate monitoring, as well as insurance law, professional responsibility and ethics, and general civil litigation.

Read the full article here (subscription may be required).

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