Deputy Prosecutors? Jury Verdict Against Thurston County Upheld; Individual Can?t Waive Attorney-Client Privilege for Group Communications with Prospective Attorney
Audrey Broyles, Vonda Sargent, Susan Sackett- DanPullo all worked as deputy Thurston County prosecutors under County Prosecutor Ed Holm. In late 2000, they raised concerns about their supervisor and a fellow prosecutor including concerns about gender discrimination and sexual harassment.?? ?Holm retaliated? over? a? period? of several months.? ?He reorganized the office in January 2001 to the detriment of the plaintiffs and created an abusive work environment. ?Holm made sexualized comments to Sackett-DanPullo. Broyles took medical leave and filed a tort claim. Holm threatened to send Sargent back to doing misdemeanors ?with the rest of the girls.??? She quit in the fall of 2001.?? Holm fired Broyles in December 2001.? ?Sackett-DanPullo went on medical leave several times. ?In December 2002, Holm told her [Sackett-DanPullo] he was not renewing her appointment.? The plaintiffs? claims finally went to trial in 2006.? ?Each plaintiff received a six-figure award.? ?The plaintiffs? attorneys ?received ?$1.3 ?million ?in ?fees.?? ?The County appealed the verdict but Division III affirmed. ?The court rejected the argument that the County was not liable for Holm?s conduct. ?It ruled that Holm was a county officer acting within the scope of his authority. ?It also ruled there was no immunity for his actions.?? The court rejected the County?s argument that acts outside the limitations period could not be used to support the claims for hostile work environment, and held that it was up to the jury to decide whether the acts within and without? the? limitations? period? were? part? of? the same course of conduct.?? The court rejected the argument that a prior, successful motion for summary judgment by another supervisor collaterally estopped the plaintiffs from asserting at trial that that supervisor?s conduct contributed to the overall hostile work environment.?? ?The appellate court upheld the trial court?s exclusion of the contents of a meeting the plaintiffs had with their attorneys and a fourth female prosecutor, who did not file suit.? ?In an important ruling, the appellate? court? agreed? with? the? trial? judge? that when a group of plaintiffs seeks counsel from the same attorney no one plaintiff can waive the privilege.? ?The appellate court also upheld the attorneys? fees award in full, including the 1.5 multiplier.?? Broyles v. Thurston County, 147 Wn. App. 409, 195 P.3d 985 (2008) (Penoyar, Armstrong, Hougton).