March 12, 2013 5:36pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'Price Is Right' Model's $7.7 Million Legal Win Wiped Out
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Tuesday granted a motion for a new trial over discrimination claims made by The Price Is Right model Brandi Cochran.
In November, Cochran scored a big win in her battle against producers FremantleMedia North America and The Price Is Right Productions. A jury awarded her more than $7.7 million after she successfully convinced them that she was discriminated against after becoming pregnant.
But thanks to bad jury instructions, the case is now going back to trial.
In the lawsuit, Cochran says she was fired from the game show after eight years as a model to hosts Bob Barker and Drew Carey. After she got pregnant in 2007, she said she didn't tell her co-workers at first because she was concerned about the ramifications. Eventually, she couldn't hide it, and she says that the producers then treated her differently and gave her less work, causing stress that led to health issues for her and her child.
Producers wanted the judge to toss the $7.7 million win and enter a verdict in their favor because Cochran allegedly had failed to prove they knew of her pregnancy-related depression, and they couldn't have discriminated against her based on the condition if they weren't aware of it. They also said there was no substantial evidence that her pregnancy was the reason they didn't rehire her.
The judge rejected all this, saying, "The evidence established that Defendants discriminated against Plaintiff, terminating her on the grounds of her prior pregnancy and complications. ... The evidence is sufficient to support the verdict."
But the producers made an escape from the verdict thanks to what Judge Kevin Brazile said to the jury before they deliberated.
After Cochran won her trial, the California Supreme Court made a decision about jury instructions in a mixed-motive discrimination case. Judges need to instruct the jury that discrimination is not just a "motivating factor/reason" for termination but a "substantial motivating factor/reason."
In the Cochran case, the judge failed to issue this "substantial" guidance despite a request from the defendants.
"The instruction error cannot be considered harmless," Brazile wrote in Tuesday's ruling. "Of central importance to the case was the weight given to discriminatory intent and whether that intent need only be of a mere motivating factor or a substantial factor. Given this central dispute, the failure to give the proper instruction regarding substantial factor cannot be considered harmless, and a new trial must be granted."
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