A St. Louis jury has awarded $7.5 million to a former police officer claiming she was sexually harassed and retaliated against by her supervisor. The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 attorney John Eccher represented the plaintiff, Tanisha Ross-Paige, and described the verdict as “absolutely huge for this kind of case.”
Ross-Paige claimed that her former supervisor, Sgt. Steven Gori, created and distributed a “wanted” poster with a photo of her and comments such as “subject wanted for having the baddest body in the St. Louis area,” and “use extreme caution when approaching this subject. Approach this subject from behind for your own safety.” Ross-Paige also said that Gori invited her to skinny dip in his hot tub, asked her to sit on his lap, and to remove her bullet-resistant vest so he could get a better view of her body. Eccher said Gori denied the accusations.
After Ross-Paige filed a complaint about Gori’s behavior, Gori and then-Lt. Michael Deeba assigned her to unfavorable shifts, changed her performance reviews, and denied her time off for training, according to the lawsuit. Deeba also reportedly told others that Ross-Paige’s complaint was frivolous and he wanted her transferred.
The jury found in favor of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners on a discrimination claim, but awarded Ross-Paige $300,000 in compensatory damages and $7.2 million in punitive damages. Another lawyer representing Ross-Paige, Ryan Paulus, said the verdict may be the highest in Missouri history for this kind of case, although he cautioned that it could be reduced to approximately $3 million under state law. Attorneys said the legal maximum could be increased if the Board of Police Commissioners appeals the verdict. Eccher said he believes the jury returned a large verdict on punitive damages because attorneys repeatedly caught police officers lying while testifying.
Ross-Paige’s attorneys said they offered to settle the case for either $250,000 or $100,000 plus the approval of her disability claim. They said attorneys for the police board offered no more than $80,000.