Lawyers, and I suspect a good deal of employers, watched the Marchuk v. Faruqi & Faruqi case with a great deal of interest. The allegations after all were quite scandalous — namely that Juan Monteverde, one of Faruqi’s high profile partners, had sexually harassed Marchuk and raped her. Some of the interest may have been little more than schadenfreude as Faruqi & Faruqi have certainly made their share of enemies trolling for class actions against corporate giants.
Now that the verdict has come in and it was rather non-spectacular given the allegations, defense lawyers may be celebrating that a jury rejected most of the claims and only awarded a total of $140,000. Above the Law has tracked down a juror to explain the verdict, especially given the rape allegations. There is probably a lot of interest in reading the juror’s tale, most notably the rare glimpse inside jury deliberations.
What should be of note to employers is that the mere fact that the jurors did not 100% believe Marchuk did not preclude them from finding liability against the Firm. Instead, the jurors really delved into the evidence to see if that supported a verdict under the employee-friendly New York City Human Rights Law. The jurors understood that the law is much more lenient than state or federal law.
However, this case is not only a cautionary tale for New York City employers, but it is a reminder to employers and all of us defense attorneys not to fall in love with only a certain aspect of their case. The juror interviewed noted that there were several inconsistencies in Marchuk’s story regarding the rape and that was what led them to come to the conclusion that the sex had been consensual. However, the defense attorneys also tried to paint a picture of a woman who was only looking for a payday by introducing evidence that she joked she was going to Hawaii with the settlement money. This evidence was roundly rejected by the jury.
I have been involved in many investigations and lawsuits where clients have discovered that perhaps an employee was not truthful on one minor issue. Clients begin to convince themselves that this one misstep means that no one will ever believe the rest of the story. This may be true, but it may not be when you look at the totality of the circumstances. After all, jurors are human beings, most of whom have told partial truths about minor incidents, whether intentionally or not, but still expect people to believe them when they raise serious complaints. To borrow from the title of a much-ballyhooed movie currently in theaters, there are 50 shades of gray.
When evaluating risk of exposure in a lawsuit, employers need to look at the big picture.