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Myers v. Trendwest Resorts

October 26, 2009

ALISSIA MYERS, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
TRENDWEST RESORTS, INC., DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, Brian R. Van Camp, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. 04AS01598).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sims, Acting P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

This is the second appeal by plaintiff Alissia Myers in an action against defendant Trendwest Resorts, Inc. (Trendwest) for sexual harassment in employment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Gov. Code, § 12940 et seq. (FEHA)). In the prior appeal, we reversed the summary judgment in favor of Trendwest on Myers's FEHA causes of action well as her claim for punitive damages. We affirmed the dismissal of Myers's common law causes of action relating to her allegations of sexual harassment. (Myers v. Trendwest Resorts, Inc. (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 1403, 1439 (Myers I).)

After remand, the case proceeded to jury trial on the FEHA claims for sexual harassment (Gov. Code, § 12940, subd. (j)(1)), and failure to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment (Gov. Code, § 12940, subd. (k)). The jury found that Myers had not been subjected to unwanted harassment.

On appeal, Myers contends the trial court erred by (1) failing to grant judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) because Trendwest's statement of undisputed facts -- made for purposes of summary judgment -- admitted she had "suffered severe sex harassment," (2) failing to grant JNOV based on insufficiency of the evidence in support of the verdict, (3) disallowing her expert witnesses from testifying after she filed a tardy expert witness disclosure list, (4) excluding testimony from her treating physician about the cause of her mental distress, (5) excluding the testimony of her human resources expert to bolster Myers's credibility, (6) excluding testimony from Myers's mother and friend about her mental state shortly after her first hospitalization, (7) excluding evidence of other sexual harassment lawsuits against Trendwest, (8) denying Myers's mid-trial motion to amend the complaint to state a claim for disability discrimination under FEHA (Gov. Code, § 12940, subd. (k)), and (9) denying her motion for new trial based on jury misconduct.

In the published portion of the opinion, we explain why a statement in Trendwest's statement of undisputed facts, submitted in its summary judgment motion, cannot be used against Trendwest at trial as an admission. We also explain why Myers has waived her claim that no substantial evidence supports the defense verdict. We also commend the trial judge, the Honorable Brian R. Van Camp.

In the unpublished portion of the opinion, we reject Myers's remaining contentions of prejudicial error.

We shall therefore affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A.

In every appeal, "the appellant has the duty to fairly summarize all of the facts in the light most favorable to the judgment. (Foreman & Clark Corp. v. Fallon [(1971)] 3 Cal.3d [875,] 881.) Further, the burden to provide a fair summary of the evidence "grows with the complexity of the record. [Citation.]' (Western Aggregates, Inc. v. County of Yuba (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 278, 290.)" (Boeken v. Philip Morris Inc. (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 1640, 1658, italics added.)

Myers's statement of facts gives the impression that little else occurred at trial other than her direct examination during her case-in-chief. Trendwest asserts, "The statement of facts in Appellant's Opening Brief . . . focuses exclusively on the evidence Myers submitted at trial in support of her claims. It ignores completely the evidence favorable to Trendwest, including evidence that directly contradicted Myers's evidence." Having perused the lengthy record in this appeal, we agree with Trendwest's characterization of Myers's factual recitation. In setting forth the facts, we shall highlight a few of the most glaring omissions from Myers's statement of facts.

Evidence Presented at Trial

Myers was the victim of sexual abuse while growing up. In 2001, Trendwest hired Myers to work in its Walnut Creek office selling vacation timeshares. She was about 20 years old at the time. Ayman Damlakhi was her immediate manager until he was transferred to Trendwest's Roseville office. In August 2002, Myers also began working at the Roseville office.

Myers's statement of facts fails to discuss the following additional testimony at trial: At age six or seven, she was sexually molested by a group of older boys who lived in the neighborhood. When Myers was 13 years old, she left California to live with her friend's family in Arkansas. Over the course of 12 to 18 months, she was sexually molested by her foster father and physically abused by her foster mother.

After her experiences with the foster family in Arkansas, Myers experienced panic attacks and took anti-anxiety medications. Her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Wright, testified that she probably developed post-traumatic stress syndrome and borderline personality disorder during her teenage years. Expert testimony explained that the hallmarks of a borderline personality disorder are: recounting only the facts in favor of the person's story, exaggeration, denial of personal responsibility, and manipulative behaviors.

When Myers began working at Trendwest, Damlakhi served as a mentor. She enjoyed working and joking with him. When Damlakhi became manager of Trendwest's Roseville office, Myers begged to be transferred to that location.

The River Rock Bar Incident

Myers testified that she joined a group of employees at the River Rock Bar in late November 2002. Myers stated that, in the presence of the other employees, Damlakhi told her that she had nice breasts and that he tried to grope her when the employees later went dancing. According to Myers, Damlakhi asked her for a lap dance, which offended her.

Myers's recitation of the facts fails to mention the following additional evidence about the River Rock incident: Myers chose to sit next to Damlakhi and had two or three glasses of wine. She tried to hand feed him from a plate of food she got for him. Damlakhi denied commenting on her breasts or making any other sexual comments to her. Damlakhi reluctantly went along to the dance club, which Myers had recommended. Myers caught a ride with Damlakhi, who stopped at his house to change. They then went to Myers's apartment so that she too could change her clothes.

Myers and Damlakhi then drove to the club together where they danced with several other Trendwest employees. Myers continued to drink. Myers pulled Damlakhi away from the others and started "dirty dancing." Damlakhi found it embarrassing and announced that he was going to leave since his friend refused to show up at the dance club. Damlakhi never asked Myers for a lap dance.

One of the Trendwest employees who was at the dance club with them testified that Myers did not give the impression that she was uncomfortable around Damlakhi that night. To the contrary, Myers danced with him in a provocative and flirty manner while Damlakhi "danced like Pee Wee Herman, kind of goofy."

Damlakhi stated that Myers later grabbed his fingers and began sucking on them. Myers told him, "I'll rock your world." Damlakhi pulled away, and Myers responded, "You don't know what you're missing."

A Trendwest employee who had not been to the dance club testified that Myers told him the next day that she "had a good time" at the club.

Invitation to Las Vegas

Myers testified that she felt harassed by Damlakhi's frequent telephone calls and dinner invitations after the dance club incident. Myers stated she felt especially uncomfortable about Damlakhi's offer to give her $50,000 to let him take her to Las Vegas for the weekend.

Myers's statement of facts fails to mention evidence unfavorable to her characterization of the Las Vegas invitation. On cross-examination, Myers acknowledged agreeing, at least momentarily, to accompany him because she wanted to use the money as a down payment on a house.

Damlakhi denied ever offering to take Myers to Las Vegas. Instead, he invited his co-worker, Rob Tyler, to go with him. Myers spoke up and said that she wanted to go with him. Damlakhi stated she would have to sleep on the suite's sofa while he got the bed. He said that he did not want a sexual harassment lawsuit. Myers jokingly replied, "I need someone to sue." Damlakhi and Myers never went to Las Vegas together.

Driving for Dollars "Driving for dollars" referred to a tactic in which sales representatives accompanied potential buyers back to their homes to retrieve the initial payment on a timeshare. Myers claimed she suffered two sexual assaults while she and Damlakhi were driving for dollars.

Myers testified that Damlakhi accompanied her in following a customer home in March 2003. Myers stated that Damlakhi insisted on going with her even after she strongly objected. After Myers and Damlakhi received the customer's payment, he started questioning her about her sex life. She testified that Damlakhi told her he could satisfy her sexually. He pulled the car off the road, kissed her neck, and fondled her legs. She testified that he succeeded in putting his hand down her pants and groping her breasts despite efforts to fend him off. After she convinced him to drive her back to the office, Damlakhi put her hands in his groin "to tell [her] how hard he was and how much he wanted [her]." When they arrived at the office, Damlakhi apologized and said he was "a little lonely right now."

Myers testified that the second sexual assault by Damlakhi occurred in May 2003, when he again insisted on accompanying her in driving for dollars. After securing payment from the customer, Damlakhi drove Myers back to his house. He pulled the car into the garage and shut the garage door by remote control. Damlakhi then put his hand up her dress and tried to kiss her. When she got out of the car, he pushed against her to simulate sexual intercourse while undoing her bra and groping her breasts. Myers broke free and ran out the side door. Damlakhi ran after her, apologized, and drove her home.

Myers's recitation of the facts fails to mention the following additional evidence about the "driving for dollars" incidents: Damlakhi denied ever asking about Myers's sex life. Although Damlakhi admitted he went "driving for dollars" with Myers in March 2003, he denied touching her or making any detour on the way back to the office from the customer's house. Being close to midnight when Myers secured the payment, Damlakhi wanted to get back to the office where other employees were waiting to complete the paperwork.

As to the incident in May 2003, Damlakhi denied taking Myers to his house or touching her on the way back to the office.

Myers admitted that she never told anyone at Trendwest about the assaults while she was employed there. She testified that she told her co-worker, Daniel Henry, that she was "scared" of Damlakhi and asked Henry to accompany her and Damlakhi during the March 2003 drive. Henry testified he was asked to accompany them, but recalled that Myers did not want to drive for dollars because everyone hated the sales tactic and the hour was late. Henry never saw Damlakhi engage in any inappropriate conduct with Myers.

Myers' First Hospitalization

In June 2003, Myers was hospitalized for two weeks at Sutter Psychiatric Hospital. At trial and on appeal, Myers claims she suffered an emotional and mental collapse due to Damlakhi's sexual harassment.

However, Myers fails to acknowledge important additional evidence. Myers's admission chart indicated a host of factors as precipitating her nervous breakdown including being molested as a child by neighborhood boys, being abused by her foster father and brothers, her belief that her mother was trying to kill her, relationship difficulties with her boyfriend, and her "feeling" that she was being sexually harassed by Damlakhi. The progress notes indicated that Myers's main goal upon discharge was to separate from the boyfriend with whom she lived.

The June 2003 hospitalization records indicate that she was feeling anxious and suicidal without knowing the cause. Although the records of her hospitalization and subsequent therapy indicated abuse by her childhood attackers as well as her foster father and brothers, no mention is found of sexual assault by Damlakhi.

Myers fails to note that the trial court expressly found that her hundreds of pages of medical records "were devoid of any reference by her to" sexual assaults by Damlakhi.

Christine McGowan, Trendwest's Roseville officer manager, testified that she and Damlakhi visited Myers in the hospital. Myers jumped out of bed and told Damlakhi she was glad he had come to visit. She further testified Myers gave both of them big hugs, saying, "she missed being at work and couldn't wait to get back." She had already talked to someone about buying a timeshare and was excited to get back to work. During the visit, Myers asked Damlakhi for money so that she could move out of the apartment she shared with her boyfriend. Damlakhi ended up advancing her $1,500.

Lake Tahoe Ski Trip

In November 2003, Myers returned to work. That month, some of the sales representatives from the Roseville office went on an annual skiing trip to Lake Tahoe. Myers testified that shortly after arriving at the slopes, Damlakhi grabbed her arm and smacked her on the buttocks. She exclaimed, "Don't touch me. Don't touch me. You said you weren't going to touch me." Myers ran to tell her friend, Felicia Torrez. Myers also told Torrez that Damlakhi had tried to get her to go to the hotel room with him.

Myers's factual recount fails to acknowledge the following additional evidence regarding the Tahoe incidents: Myers testified that she also told co-workers Steve Wilcox and Al Catlin about being smacked on the buttocks as soon as she got to the top of the ski slope. Both Wilcox and Catlin testified that Myers never told them about the incident or any other sexual harassment by Damlakhi. Moreover, neither saw Damlakhi inappropriately touch Myers at any time. Damlakhi denied ever smacking Myers on the buttocks. He explained that he had playfully pushed Myers's back because everyone was playing and falling in the snow when they arrived at Lake Tahoe.

Myers's claim that Damlakhi invited her to the hotel room refers to her testimony that Damlakhi was cold and wanted to leave the ski slopes because he was not a good skier. When Myers refused to leave, Damlakhi asked for the keys to the car so he could return to the hotel room. Damlakhi did not have his own room, but slept on the sofa of the suite in which all of the employees were staying. In the suite, Myers and Torrez shared their own room. Catlin -- whom Myers acknowledged to be honest -- testified that he observed Myers the next morning climb on top of a sleeping Damlakhi and stick her tongue in his ear to wake him up. This visibly upset Damlakhi.

Myers's Second Hospitalization

In December 2003, Myers was hospitalized after she cut her wrists and burned herself. Myers told a co-worker from Trendwest that her hospitalization was due to childhood abuse. The discharge summary indicates that Myers claimed symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts "following sexual harassment at work." The documents for the hospitalization indicate that she reported "her supervisor has been sexually harassing her at work, has been physically very inappropriate."

Also in December 2003, Trendwest terminated Myers's employment due to the length of her medical leave. In January 2004, Myers learned of Trendwest's "Integrity Hotline" and called to complain about (1) being dismissed when she had only been on medical leave for four months, and (2) sexual harassment by Damlakhi. Myers was assured that the complaints would be investigated and she would be informed of the outcome within a few days. Two weeks later, Myers again called the Integrity Hotline and was told that there was no record of her prior call.

B.

Any impartial reader who approaches Myers's briefs unfamiliar with the testimony at trial must come away with a sense of bafflement as to why the jury and trial court did not decide in her favor -- especially given the seemingly uncontradicted ...


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