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A juror who voted to assess the baker of Wonder Bread $121 million in punitive damages for discriminating against black employees says he’s disappointed with a judge’s decision to reduce the amount to $24.3 million. “I don’t think the $24 million would meet the instruction the jury got to find a sum that would have a deterrent effect on the company,” juror Eric Noble said. But Noble said he was “gratified” that San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollak agreed with the jury that Interstate Brands Corp.’s “pervasive despicable behavior” warranted punitive damages. The juror’s reaction came after Pollak issued a 21-page order Friday trimming compensatory and punitive damages against IBC for racially discriminating against 17 of its employees in San Francisco. “African-American employees were made to feel that they were subject to different standards than other employees and faced greater hurdles in obtaining promotions and other benefits of employment,” Pollak wrote in Carroll v. IBC, 995728. “Although defendant annually adopted an affirmative action plan, there was evidence that these plans were entirely disregarded and that African-American employees were subjected to derogatory racial remarks and unequal treatment without any meaningful recourse to management.” Patrick Mullin, lead defense counsel, said IBC plans to appeal the damage awards and expects further reductions. “We’re going to pursue an appeal,” said Mullin, a Jackson Lewis Schnitzler & Krupman partner. “We still think the judgment is wrong and not substantiated by the evidence.” Angela Alioto, lead attorney for 16 of the 17 plaintiffs, said she plans to discuss the reductions with her clients, who must decide whether to accept the reduced sums or go through a whole new trial. “I will encourage my clients to accept the judge’s order,” Alioto said. “Anyway you look at it, this is a historic discrimination damage award.” Jurors initially hit IBC with $11 million in compensatory damages and $121 million in punitives. Pollak earlier cut the compensatory award in half, saying the alleged discriminatory acts happened outside the lawsuit’s limitation period. In his order, he further cut the emotional distress award to $3.04 million. But his big trim came in punitive damages, which he cut by nearly $100 million. He said his reductions were appropriate. “In the court’s independent judgment, these amounts should be adequate to ensure that the defendant takes the jury’s findings to heart and acts promptly and forcefully to correct the conditions which gave rise to these verdicts,” he wrote. But juror Noble, who is director of information technology at Hastings College of the Law, said the nation’s biggest bakery may not get the message. “I don’t think that $24 million is going to have a deterrent effect on a company with a net worth of $3 billion,” he said. “It’s going to be only a pin prick.” Noble also said jurors were miffed at IBC management’s “cavalier attitude” during the trial in providing only selected financial data. “The company did everything it could to withhold the assets of the company,” he said. Company officials said its two Northern California bakeries recorded $159 million in gross profits. But Noble said the jury decided IBC had another 72 bakeries nationwide on which to assess punitive damages based on its net worth. “You do the math,” he said.

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