SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Five people videotaped using the toilet and dressing rooms at Finish Line can recover $1.7 million from their voyeuristic manager, but the sporting-goods retailer is off the hook.
The five women - one of whom was a minor at the time - sued Finish Line and former manager David Meyer in August 2011 for a litany of civil and labor code violations, as well as invasion of privacy, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.
Meyer monitored the employees at the store near Milpitas, Calif., with secret cameras placed directly across from a toilet and a dressing room bench. His videotapes caught the women in various stages of undress and, in one case, inserting a tampon.
Finish Line had tried to arbitrate the women's dispute based on an agreement that each of them signed when they were hired. A federal judge found the employment agreements unconscionable and unenforceable in 2012, however, since the retailer required them as a condition of employment.
The parties eventually agreed to a modified arbitration, and the mediating judge completely exonerated Finish Line in 2013.
With only their claims against Meyer remaining, the women asked for summary judgment. Meyer, whom the women alleged had fled to Indianapolis after his voyeurism became public, never responded to the motion.
U.S. District Judge Edward Davila on Tuesday awarded the women the amount they sought for their past emotional distress claims, from $200,000 to $250,000 each.
The judge balked, however, at awarding equal amounts for future emotional distress, noting that the women have admitted that they are "experiencing less and less adverse symptoms as time goes on."
"Thus, while the evidence presented shows that plaintiffs will continue to experience some degree of emotional distress as a result of Meyer's conduct, it also shows that the passage of time has and will continue to ameliorate the effects of this distress," he wrote. "Accordingly, the court finds that each plaintiff is entitled to $100,000 for future emotional distress damages."
While Davila found past economic damages easy to assess, he said the women had "overestimated the amount of therapy that can be considered 'reasonably certain'" in the future. Davila also declined to triple the damages since it did not appear that Meyer had ever intended to profit from his voyeurism.
The judge also refused the women's request for attorneys' fees under California's Private Attorney General Act, since he had made a mistake in granting them judgment on a labor code claim that did not apply to Meyer - who was a supervisor, not an employer.
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