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Trial Judge Didn’t Meet 13th-Juror Standard

(CN) - A restaurant manager who sued her former employer for gender discrimination will get a new trial after the trial judge "failed to exercise his duty as 13th juror," the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled.

Julie Bellamy sued Cracker Barrel Old Country Store for gender discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment.

Bellamy said her supervisor, Paul Ludovissie, tried to exercise control over her dating life, yelled at her and knocked over chairs and objects in her presence.

Bellamy also said she was fired in retaliation for reporting Ludovissie's conduct.

A jury ruled against her, and the chancery court later denied her request for a new trial.

According to Bellamy: "The court expressed displeasure at being required to either agree or disagree with the jury's verdict and having to state that the preponderance of the evidence was in favor of [the defendants]."

Judge Highers reversed the decision, citing the trial judge's comments on the verdict, which did not affirm the jury's verdict.

"We find the trial judge's comment that he 'was not saying that he agreed or disagreed with the jury's decisions' ... evidences a misconception of his duty as a 13th juror, thus requiring a new trial," Highers wrote. "As the 13th juror, the trial judge must do precisely what the trial judge failed to do in this case - agree with the jury's verdict."

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