Smithfield's Founder Loses $1.15M Verdict in Sex Harassment Case
A jury Thursday ordered the founder of the Smithfield's Chicken 'n Bar-B-Q chain to pay $1.15 million to a male former employee who had sued him for sexual harassment.Posted — Updated
Jurors deliberated for more than a day before finding that chief executive Gregory Moore sexually harassed his former assistant, Jason Hallaman, and then fired him in 2002 when Hallaman rebuffed sexual advances from Moore.
They awarded Hallaman $750,000 in compensatory damages for loss of employment and an additional $400,000 on the grounds of malicious prosecution because Moore brought criminal charges against him.
Jurors spent much of Wednesday weighing testimony and asked Thursday morning for Superior Court Judge Abe Jones to instruct them again on state law regarding monetary damages.
Trial attorney Hart Miles, who has practiced in Wake County for more than a decade, said that amount is unusually high, because Wake jurors tend to be conservative.
"There must have been some very compelling evidence that led the jury to come to this decision," Miles said.
Hallaman has also asked for punitive damages, and attorneys will argue that part of the case Friday morning.
In addition, the jury decided a counter-suit in which Moore accused Hallaman of trespassing and taking furniture that belonged to Moore. They awarded Moore a dollar in damages.
Two other former Smithfield's employees, both men, also filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Moore. One suit was settled, and the second is pending.
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