A Cole County jury found the Missouri Department of Corrections liable for $2.15 million in damages on a former nurse’s claims that she faced sexual harassment and retaliation.
Plaintiff Kathleen Newman worked for Corizon, a healthcare company that contracts with the state to provide medical treatment for offenders. In January 2017, Newman was working in the prison infirmary at the Jefferson City Correctional Center when a corrections officer told her he would put her in in his “capture room” to torture, bind and rape. Newman alleged that a supervisor heard the comments and laughed.
After the incident was reported, Newman was subjected was subjected to daily “rape jokes” from other corrections officers. The officer who made the comments was allowed to return to work after an investigation. He later was fired after Newman had resigned.
The jury awarded Newman $150,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $2 million in punitive damages. However, the jury sided with the department on a constructive discharge claim.
The case is the latest in a series of awards against the Department of Corrections on claims of sexual harassment. In a statement, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Julianne Germinder and Joanna Trachtenberg of TGH Litigation, argued that the department’s efforts to alter the culture of harassment was “cosmetic only” and designed to limit the department’s legal liability.
A post-trial motion for attorneys’ fees and costs remains pending. The department is expected to appeal.
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$2.15 million verdict
Venue: Cole County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 17AC-CC00364/Nov. 18, 2022
Judge: Jon Beetem
Last Pretrial Demand: $1,000,000
Last Pretrial Offer: $50,000
Caption: Kathleen Newman v. Missouri Department of Corrections
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Julianne Germinder and Joanna Trachtenberg, TGH Litigation, Columbia,
Defendant’s Attorneys: Eric Doner and Riley O’Shaughnessy, Missouri Attorney General’s Office, St. Louis