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Jury Rejects Harassment Claim Against Sterling

October 21, 2005|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles jury Thursday rejected a former employee's claims that Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling fired her after just 11 months on the job for resisting his sexual advances.

The jury found that Sterling did not sexually harass, retaliate against and then fire Sumner Davenport, a property supervisor he hired in 2001 to help oversee apartments and other buildings owned by his Beverly Hills Properties.

Sterling's lawyer, Bob Platt, a senior partner in Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, called the jury verdict "a complete vindication." After a nine-week trial in downtown Los Angeles, "the jury found there was no merit to any of her claims," he said. Jurors believed Sterling's testimony over the woman's, the lawyer said.

Davenport accused Sterling in court documents of trying to kiss her and touch her breast. Once, she said, Sterling answered the door of his Malibu home wearing nothing but a towel and tried to hug her.

She said she complained to her supervisor about the alleged harassment and was told to stay out of Sterling's way. An internal company investigation that cleared Sterling of her accusation was "a sham," her lawyer told the court.

Davenport also questioned what she considered her new boss and his company's racially prejudiced employment and housing practices, a charge that Sterling's lawyer denied.

Sterling in court papers accused Davenport of becoming sick of her job after less than a year, then "vindictively hatching a scheme ... to discredit, harass and embarrass" him and his company. His lawyers also said Davenport was unsuccessful in filing a stress-related workers' compensation claim.

Davenport's lawyer, John F. Denove, did not return a telephone call seeking comment on the case.

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