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The Michigan Supreme Court threw out a $21 million verdict against DaimlerChrysler AG in a sexual harassment case brought by an autoworker, saying the amount was “so excessive and so clearly the product of passion and prejudice.” In a 4-3 ruling Thursday, the court sent the case back for a new trial. The judgment was believed to be one of the largest awards to a single sexual harassment plaintiff. Linda Gilbert has claimed DaimlerChrysler co-workers called her cruel names rarely uttered in mixed company and left sexually explicit cartoons and photos on and near her locker at a Chrysler assembly plant in Detroit. She said she endured the sexual harassment for years, and won a $21 million judgment from a state court jury against the automaker in 1999. But DaimlerChrysler said Gilbert disclosed a number of allegations only after she sued and said it did all it could with the knowledge it had. In five of the six incidents Gilbert reported, she withheld the names of those she thought were responsible, DaimlerChrysler said. “The jury verdict is so excessive and so clearly the product of passion and prejudice that there can be no justification for the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion for a new trial,” Justice Robert Young Jr. wrote in the lead opinion, joined by Chief Justice Maura Corrigan and Justices Clifford Taylor and Stephen Markman. “The jury’s verdict unmistakably reflects passion rather than reason and prejudice rather than impartiality,”the court said. Justices Michael Cavanagh, Marilyn Kelly and Elizabeth Weaver dissented from the court’s decision. They agreed the jury award was excessive but argued that the trial court judge could reduce Gilbert’s award rather than prepare for a new trial. DaimlerChrysler said it was “gratified” by the court’s decision. “DaimlerChrysler is a great place to work and is strongly committed to providing its employees with a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination,” said Judith Pickering, assistant general counsel. Gilbert sued in 1994. She won her settlement in 1999, and it has been under appeal ever since. She was believed to be the first and for many years only female millwright at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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