When Lawyers Fight: SF City Attorney Weighing Options After Jury Awards Fired Prosecutor $2 Million
(BANT) – A spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Monday that “we’re still evaluating all the options” in the wake of a $2 million jury award for a former senior attorney in Herrera’s office.
A jury in the court of San Francisco Superior Court Lynn O’Malley Taylor granted the award on Friday to former Chief Trial Deputy Joanne Hoeper, who claimed she was wrongly fired in 2014 in retaliation for her work on a possible fraud investigation.
Hoeper’s probe concerned payments approved by the claims bureau of Herrera’s office to homeowners and their plumbers for replacement of private sewer lines allegedly damaged by the roots of city-owned trees.
The month-long Superior Court trial on Hoeper’s retaliation lawsuit did not determine whether fraud actually occurred.
Herrera contended in court papers that Hoeper was fired because he was dissatisfied with her management style and that he began looking for her replacement in 2010, before she began the sewer-line-payments probe in early 2012.
But the jury concluded that Hoeper’s efforts to look into alleged false claims against the city were a “substantial motivating reason” for the city’s decision to terminate her employment, and that the city would not otherwise have fired her for legitimate independent reasons.
Herrera spokesman John Cote said, “We are sorry the jury did not recognize that the city attorney had independent reasons for terminating Ms. Hoeper in 2014.
“We are grateful that the jury did not award her the $6 million she was seeking. Nevertheless, we are exploring all of our options,” he said.
Possible future steps could include post-trial motions, an appeal to the state Court of Appeal or a settlement in which no appeal would be filed.
The jury award to Hoeper included $602,000 for lost earnings, $136,000 for future lost earnings and $1,291,000 for emotional distress.