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'Price Is Right' pregnancy discrimination victim loses jury award

Last year, a former model on the game show "The Price Is Right" sued the show for pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination. She alleged extremely poor treatment by the show's producers, who apparently criticized her for gaining weight and even removed her from the show's website. Ultimately, she says, they fired her.

The case went to trial and the jury was deadlocked several times before it came back with a verdict. That verdict, however, was substantial -- it awarded the woman $8.5 million in compensation for the harm done to her career. It certainly seemed that the jury was sending a message.

The message has been sent, but it appears the money will not be -- at least for now. The show appealed the verdict, and the California Supreme Court has just ruled that the case will have to be retried.

The problem, according to the high court, was the jury instructions. By law, in order to prove illegal pregnancy discrimination, the plaintiff has to prove to a jury that the pregnancy was a "substantial motivation factor" for the adverse job action. The instructions given to the jury before their deliberations apparently omitted that rule, which could conceivably mean they gave the model $8.5 million even though pregnancy was only shown to be a small part of why the show ridiculed and fired her.

Even if that isn't likely, the court apparently felt it had no choice but to overturn the verdict. Frustrating as that is, the model will have to go through a second trial and prove her claims there. Alternatively, she and the show may settle in the meantime, or she could drop her claim altogether.

Courtroom litigation can be extremely expensive and time consuming. While we all value the vigorous application of legal standards by appellate courts, even a completely fair ruling that results in a reversal can have a very serious impact on the lives of those involved.

Source: Business Insider, "'Price Is Right' Model's $8.5 Million Prize In Pregnancy Suit Gets Wiped Out," Erin Fuchs, March 13, 2013

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