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PUNITIVES OK’D IN SUIT AGAINST UNIVERSITY PHILADELPHIA — Punitive damages were justified in a reverse sex discrimination suit against the University of Pennsylvania where the evidence showed that one of the decision-makers decided not to interview any male candidates for coach of the women’s crew team despite knowing that the university’s policies prohibited ever taking gender into account when hiring, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled. In its 19-page opinion in Medcalf v. University of Pennsylvania, a unanimous three-judge panel upheld a jury’s November 2001 award of more than $115,000 — including $25,120 in punitive damages — to Andrew Medcalf, a former assistant coach of the university’s men’s crew team who said he was clearly the best candidate for the head coach of the women’s team and was passed over only because of his sex. The cost to Penn more than doubled later when U.S. District Judge Herbert Hutton awarded more than $175,000 in costs and attorneys fees to Medcalf’s lawyer, Lawrence Woehrle of Sprague & Sprague, and nearly $13,000 in prejudgment interest on the back-pay portion of the jury’s award. On appeal, the university’s lawyers argued that the jury should never have been allowed to consider remarks allegedly made by Carolyn Femovich, the university’s senior associate athletic director, since she was not a decision-maker. Attorneys Neil Hamburg of Hamburg & Golden and Penn in-house attorney Eric Tilles argued that since Athletic Director Steve Bilsky was the sole actual decision-maker, any statements by Femovich could not be used to attribute discriminatory animus to Penn. The Third Circuit disagreed, finding instead that there was “substantial evidence that Femovich was intimately involved in the process of selecting candidates to interview for the position of women’s crew coach, such that the jury could properly infer that she was a decision-maker.” — The Legal Intelligencer CASINO VISITOR PARLAYS NICKEL INTO JACKPOT NEW YORK — Hitting the jackpot took on new meaning in a Detroit federal courtroom where a 74-year-old woman battled a casino over a nickel and won $875,000. In the summer of 2001, Estella Romanski, a resident of Troy, Mich., took a chartered bus to the MotorCity Casino, in nearby Detroit. Romanski had a little luck at first. She found an abandoned nickel credit at a deserted slot machine, she said. But she never got to play it. Romanski said she was suddenly surrounded by casino security officers. She was then questioned, photographed, held against her will and finally tossed out of the casino, she alleged. The officers also stripped her of her $9 meal ticket, she claimed. Neil Fink of the Law Offices of Neil H. Fink in Birmingham, Mich., took her case to state court under theories of civil rights violations, false arrest, false imprisonment, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. An eight-person jury reached unanimous verdicts for Romanski on her civil rights, false imprisonment and false arrest claims, awarding her $270 — and 5 cents — in general damages and $875,000 in punitive damages. That’s about one day’s profit for the casino, Fink said. The jury found for the defendant on the plaintiff’s other claims. — The National Law Journal

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