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March 2013

LA Employment Team Obtains Dismissal of $10 MillionCase in Which Plaintiff Made False Herpes Claim

Gordon & Rees partners Debra Ellwood Meppen and Sarah Super and associate Ashley Coleman of Los Angeles recently secured the dismissal of a $10 million sexual harassment, assault and battery claim in exchange for a waiver of costs.

In her lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that the individually named defendant, a prominent CEO and business owner, sexually harassed her and forced her to have sexual relations with him to keep her job. The crux of the plaintiff's claim was that the defendant transmitted herpes simplex to her, which she, in turn, transmitted to her unsuspecting husband.

Plaintiff and her husband sued our clients, the CEO and his company, asserting causes of action for sexual harassment, negligence, fraudulent concealment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium. The plaintiffs claimed more than $10 million in emotional distress damages.

After confirming medically that our client had never been exposed to the herpes virus, defense counsel strategically elicited testimony illustrating the entire basis of the plaintiff's claims and damages stemmed from the pain, distress and humiliation of contracting the herpes virus, allegedly from the defendant.

After obtaining this dramatic and self-serving testimony, defense counsel knowingly allowed the defendant to submit to an independent medical examination, which revealed to the plaintiffs and their counsel that the plaintiff could not have contracted the virus from the defendant.

That test result, coupled with the plaintiff’s deposition testimony, conclusively refuted the plaintiffs' claims and damaged their credibility in a manner that left them no choice but to dismiss their remaining claims. Several days later, the plaintiffs dismissed their entire case.

This dismissal permitted the defendant to preserve his excellent reputation as a community leader and return his full attention toward running his business.

Debra Ellwood Meppen