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New Damages in Labor Suit

August 28, 2004|Richard Verrier

A Santa Monica jury Friday ordered a vice president of legal affairs at Sony Pictures Entertainment and his wife to pay $275,000 in punitive damages to a woman who said the couple kept her as a domestic slave.

The Superior Court verdict in favor of Nena Ruiz, 60, is expected to be doubled because of a provision of state labor law. The total damages against James J. Jackson and Elizabeth Jackson would be $1.6 million, excluding attorney fees, said Ruiz's attorney, Dan Stormer.

"This sends a message that jurors will not tolerate this type of abusive conduct," he said.

Ruiz alleged in a lawsuit that she was held against her will at the couple's Culver City condominium, physically abused and forced to perform grueling work for virtually no pay.

On Thursday, the jury found the Jacksons liable for involuntary servitude, negligence and fraud. They were ordered to pay Ruiz $551,490. Elizabeth Jackson was also deemed liable for assault and battery.

The Jacksons' attorney, Jack Daniels, said his clients denied any wrongdoing and would seek to appeal the verdict.

-- Richard Verrier

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