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A San Francisco judge rejected defense arguments that jurors drinking alcohol had clouded minds during deliberations in a discrimination case against the baker of Wonder Bread and Twinkies. Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollak has refused to order a new trial but plans to reduce compensatory and punitive damages awarded to the 17 plaintiffs. Pollak on Friday said he would issue this week his ruling affecting the fates of the men who claimed they were denied promotions and pay raises and also suffered the indignities of racial slurs. “It seems quite clear that the jury heard evidence that there was a pervasive atmosphere and attitude running through this bakery that African-American employees were second-class citizens,” Pollak said. “This policy was magnified in a whole variety of ways that I’m not going to elaborate on.” Although Pollak agreed with the jury’s findings in Carroll v. Interstate Brands Corp. 995728, regarding discrimination, he disagreed that it was so overwhelmingly oppressive. “The evidence of racial discrimination was pervasive. But it was not ubiquitous,” the judge said. “It was not continuous . . . day to day.” Pollak said he believes punitive damages are merited, but not in the amount the jury returned in its verdicts. “I’m not at all persuaded that anything like $121 million is necessary to make the point that the jury was trying to make here,” he said. Pollak also reduced each plaintiff’s compensatory damages, which initially totaled $11 million, but were cut in half by the judge. He will now trim them more based on what he believes the evidence shows for each man in lost wages or emotional distress. The plaintiffs will then have to decide whether to accept the judge’s reduction of their awards or go to trial again. Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Angela Alioto said that if Pollak cuts the punitives to $60 million it’ll “be like a gnat on the arm” of IBC, the nation’s largest bakery. “This company has shown no remorse at all,” Alioto said. “It has done nothing” to remedy the situation. IBC appellate attorney Paul Cane Jr. called the punitive award “freakish” and “bigger than anything by order of magnitude” ever recorded before in a published opinion. “When you have an award this aberrational, a new trial has to be granted,” said the Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker partner. Four jurors from the trial sat in the courtroom among the plaintiffs during the hearing. They frowned when the judge indicated he would cut the damage awards. Pollak also addressed Cane’s claim of juror misconduct due to the drinking of alcohol during trial and deliberations by one or more jurors. He said the issue “has been blown way out of proportion,” but did not deny that some jurors had imbibed a bit. The judge said he felt “entirely comfortable” with the conclusions he reached. “[Drinking] had absolutely no influence on the verdict in this case and this case should not be tried again,” Pollak said.

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