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June 2019

Gordon & Rees Trial Team Obtains Defense Verdict for The French Laundry in Pregnancy Discrimination Trial

Gordon & Rees partners Michael D. Bruno and Michael A. Laurenson and Senior Counsel Michael A. Dubin received a complete defense verdict on behalf of firm client Chef Thomas Keller and The French Laundry after a 3 ½ week jury trial in Napa Superior Court.

The plaintiff was a former Captain (head server) who alleged that her offer to transfer from Keller’s restaurant Per Se in New York to his restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville was withdrawn after the General Manager of The French Laundry learned she was pregnant.

The plaintiff’s team of five attorneys was seeking nearly $2 million in compensatory damages and intended to seek many times more in punitive damages against all the Keller restaurants on the basis of a “smoking gun” email which they argued proved discriminatory intent.

Bruno and Laurenson argued that the decision not to hire the plaintiff was based only on the General Manager’s unfavorable impression of her from the time they had worked together years earlier at Per Se and suggested that the plaintiff was at least partially to blame for the result as she had mistaken the General Manager’s polite expression of, “We’d love to have you,” as a job offer.

The jury deliberated for two days before returning a verdict in favor of Gordon & Rees' client on all of the plaintiff’s claims. Following the verdict, jurors commended Bruno and Laurenson on their professionalism and stated that their decision was in part a rebuke of how the plaintiff’s attorneys had treated witnesses during the trial.

The case and result were widely covered in the media. Click to view select articles:

The Northern California Trial Practice Group is an interdisciplinary team that consists of our most seasoned trial attorneys based in our San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento offices. The group focuses on cases ranging from matters of the highest importance to simple bench trials; bet-the-company class actions to single plaintiff arbitrations. The group is equipped to handle matters across all substantive practice areas.

Michael D. Bruno
Michael A. Laurenson