In a further indication of the threat posed to the market by social inflation, a California jury has awarded a former lawyer at Farmers Insurance Group $150 million.
The $150 million award comes in a case in which the plaintiff alleged that he was fired as he prepared to testify in a pay discrimination case against the company.
The jury in state court in Los Angeles handed down the verdict after less than hour of deliberations, in which Andrew Rudnicki says he was scapegoated over the alleged pay bias against female employees at Farmers.
The verdict covered punitive damages, which are designed to punish unlawful conduct and deter it in the future.
Farmers said in a statement that it disagrees with the verdict and is considering its options.
The jury had separately awarded Rudnicki, who was a senior vice president at Farmers, $5.4 million in compensatory damages.
Rudnicki claimed in the lawsuit that after 37 years with the company, he was fired in 2016 shortly after Farmers agreed to pay $4 million to settle a class action pay-bias lawsuit by female workers.
Rudnicki said Farmers was fearful of what he would have revealed about its pay practices had he testified in the case, and placed the blame on him for the allegedly unlawful conduct.
Farmers maintained throughout the litigation that Rudnicki was fired for making inappropriate and insensitive comments to coworkers.
The jury found that Farmers unlawfully retaliated against Rudnicki and wrongfully terminated him in violation of California law, and had acted with malice or oppression.
The case is Rudnicki v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. BC630158.