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Judge rejects former A-B exec’s request for new trial

St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison on Tuesday denied a former Anheuser-Busch executive’s request for a new trial after the executive lost a lawsuit against the company for discrimination.

Mary Anne Sedey, who represented former Anheuser-Busch executive Francine Katz in the suit, filed a motion for a new trial in July after a jury ruled in favor of the brewing company in May. The initial suit, originally filed in 2009, sought $14 million.

In the motion for a new trial, Sedey claimed legal errors occurred at the initial trial, pointing to issues with the defense’s closing statement and with jury instructions.

Sedey claimed that Jim Bennett, who represented Anheuser-Busch, misrepresented the law in his closing statement by implying to the jury that Katz needed to prove unequal pay for equal work. Sedey said the legal theory was that Katz’s gender was a factor in her pay.

Burlison’s order filed Tuesday stated that the “defendant’s comments … were well within the evidence presented at trial, were consistent with the court’s instructions and properly argued the evidence and reasonable inferences derived from the evidence.”

The next issue Sedey brought up was the portion of the jury instructions about the statute of limitations, which told jurors a verdict “must be for defendant if you believe that sex was not a contributing factor for any payment decisions by … Anheuser-Busch Companies … after October 26, 2007.”

Sedey argued that “the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the employee’s receipt of the last discriminatory paycheck rather than from the date of the employer’s pay-setting decision, and as a result the instructions misstated the law.

The court ruled that the portion of the instructions in question “did not misdirect, mislead or confuse the jury, followed the substantive law” and “could be readily understood by the jury and was, therefore, proper,” according to the Tuesday order.

Burlison also ruled against Sedey’s issue with another portion of the jury instructions that stated jurors’ “Verdict must be for Defendant Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC, if you believe: First, defendant paid plaintiff based on its assessment of the duties and responsibilities of her position and second, in doing so, plaintiff’s sex was not a contributing factor.”

Sedey said the instruction was a “business judgment instruction that ‘should not have been given at all under Missouri law,’” the court filings said. At a September hearing, Sedey said “assessment” was a loaded word.

Tuesday’s order said the instruction “is not a business judgment instruction” and “is a proper lawful justification consistent with Missouri Approved Instructions.”