Oceanside CA- A Superior Court granted the City of Oceanside’s motion for a new trial in the case of Kimberli Hirst vs. City of Oceanside setting aside the $1.5 million dollar jury verdict.
The award stems from a 2009 sexual harassment lawsuit against the City and former police officer, Gilbert Garcia filed by Kimberli Hirst. Hirst who worked for the Oceanside Police Department, under contract with San Diego County, drawing blood in DUI cases, claimed Garcia made unwanted sexual advances towards her. A jury found the City 75% to blame and Garcia the other 25% when awarding the judgment. The City fired Garcia, but the former officer filed a suit against the City claiming he was terminated as part of a cover-up in another case. That case involved an Oceanside Police Sgt. and alcohol.
A statement released by the City said the Court found the damages awarded by the jury excessive and unsupported by the evidence. The Court concluded, among other things, that the jury inappropriately awarded plaintiff damages for emotional distress which allegedly incurred during the litigation, recovery for this type of damage is not allowable by law. The Court also found that the award was influenced by legally impermissible arguments made by plaintiff’s counsel. Finally, the court found that the plaintiff’s testimony was staged at times and lacked credibility.
The City believes the trial court decision was fully supported by the extensive trial record and correctly applies California law. In addition, the City continues to maintain that Plaintiff cannot sue the City under the Fair Employment and Housing Act as she was not an employee or contractor of the City.
No word on a new trial date.