In-House Counsel

Former legal chief at Farmers Insurance awarded $150M in punitive damages in firing suit

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The former legal chief for Farmers Insurance was awarded $150 million in punitive damages Thursday in a wrongful termination lawsuit claiming that he was wrongly blamed for a sex-bias suit filed by female attorneys.

The punitive award for Andrew Rudnicki is in addition to $5.4 million that he was already awarded by California jurors, Law360 reports.

A press release by Rudnicki’s lawyers, Shegerian & Associates, summed up Rudnicki’s allegations this way: “Fearful that his testimony would have shed light on inaction by Farmers, Farmers retaliated against Rudnicki and shamefully used him as a scapegoat in order to hide their own failure to address concerns Rudnicki raised” on behalf of the eventual plaintiffs.

Rudnicki was a senior vice president running Farmers Insurance’s in-house branch legal offices when he was fired in 2016. He had been working for the insurer for nearly 37 years.

Jurors found that a substantial motivating reason for Rudnicki’s firing was because he was a potential witness in the equal-pay suit by female attorneys. The suit ended with a $4 million settlement in 2016.

Rudnicki’s wrongful firing suit said the women’s allegations of underpayment “simply was not true.” Rudnicki said he did not discriminate against women, and he had, in fact, spent the majority of his career promoting women. In addition, Rudnicki said in his suit, other corporate officials who had the ultimate authority to determine salary were not fired.

Jurors found that the firing was retaliatory, but they rejected claims that Rudnicki was fired because of his age and because of a heart condition that qualified as a disability.

Jurors determined that Farmers Insurance Exchange and Farmers Group Inc. each owed Rudnicki $75 million in punitive damages.

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