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Litigant settles for $100K

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Courts > Alleged threats of workplace violence at LANL triggered suit

The case between employee Marlayne Mahar and Los Alamos National Security, LLC apparently is over.

The Los Alamos Monitor obtained a settlement agreement between Mahar and LANS where Mahar was awarded $100,000 for alleged emotional distress.

A jury back in March awarded Mahar $1 million in punitive damages but the Albuquerque Journal reported that district court Judge Sarah Singleton reduced the award in June.

The lab did not comment on the case.

According to Mahar’s attorney Timothy Butler of Santa Fe, LANS filed four post trial motions, which were briefed and argued before Singleton.

First, LANS sought a new trial, arguing that there were problems with the jury selection process. Singleton denied LANS’ motion.

Second, LANS filed a motion to set aside the jury verdict on the basis that there was supposedly no contract between Ms. Mahar and LANS which dealt with workplace violence. Singleton denied LANS’ motion.

Third, LANS filed a motion to set aside the jury verdict, arguing that even if there existed a contract between Mahar and LANS dealing with workplace violence, then LANS did not breach this contract. Singleton denied this motion as well.

The fourth and final post-trial motion LANS filed argued that the $1,000,000 punitive damages award should either be reduced to $25,000 or that a new trial on punitive damages should be ordered.

“Singleton found LANS conduct to be sufficiently culpable and egregious to refuse LANS entreaty to dishonor the jury’s intent and instead awarded $100,000 in punitive damages,” Butler said.

Butler said that based on Singleton’s ruling Mahar then had the option of seeking a new trial on punitive damages or to accept a reduced judgment in the amount of $100,000. Both parties still would be free to appeal the amount of judgment ultimately awarded, issues raised in various motions, as well as other matters. These appeals would take several years.

So, Butler said, Mahar and LANS entered into a non-confidential settlement agreement in the amount of $100,000.

“Ms. Mahar has agreed to do so to reach closure in this lawsuit, to avoid lengthy appeals, and to move forward with her life,” Mahar said. “She continues to seek employment elsewhere at LANL to make better use of her significant technical and managerial skills, knowledge and experience. But, despite applying for numerous internal positions at LANL, she remains far removed from her original, highly successful career path.”

Mahar filed suit, claiming an angry supervisor twice made comments about using a gun to resolve on-the-job disputes.

There was a three and one-half day trial and a jury awarded the punitive damages to Mahar

A jury made the award to Marlayne Mahar earlier this week following a 3 1/2-day trial in District Court in Santa Fe.

The suit said a newly hired supervisor in the plutonium processing facility told Mahar in 2009 that a boss could shoot a worker who says the wrong thing. Another female employee days later reported that the same supervisor got angry with her and told her he was going to “bring in a gun and take care of it himself,” according to the suit.

The second employee called police, saying she felt threatened, and the lab’s tactical-response team responded, the document states. The lab denied that happened.

The suit said the supervisor, Randy Fraser, told Mahar that he was joking when he made the comment to her and that he denied making the comment that the other worker reported.

The lab’s human resources unit closed an investigation of the allegations about Fraser, saying his alleged statements couldn’t be corroborated.

Fraser and another lab official were originally named as defendants in the suit, but both were dismissed from the case before the trial.

Fraser still works at the lab. Mahar now works in another area, but her suit said she is performing clerical work “far below her previous job scope.”

“Ms. Mahar applauds and honors the jury’s original verdict of $1,000,000 in punitive damages, which we believe should have sent a strong message that LANS behaved egregiously in how it handled the incidents of work place violence at issue in the case.” Butler said.