Jury Awards New Mexico Woman $1.3M for Sex-harassment Claim

July 28, 2005

A jury has awarded $1.3 million to a New Mexico woman who claimed she was sexually harassed by a supervisor at an Allstate office in Albuquerque.

Lisa Mann, a lawyer representing the insurance giant, said she disagreed with the verdict returned July 21 in state District Court in Santa Fe, and that Allstate was considering its options.

The plaintiff, Patricia Littell, said she began working as a paralegal for an Allstate legal office in Albuquerque in 1996. In 1998, newly hired lawyer Todd Aakhus began the harassment and failed to stop even after she told him to stop, she said.

“If you objected to the sexual jokes and innuendoes, you were punished,” Littell said.

Littell claimed Aakhus punished her by criticizing her work performance and denying her a leave during a family emergency.

In February 2002, according to Littell, she requested leave and the company refused. She claimed Aakhus’ behavior escalated after that, so she left the company.

Santa Fe lawyer Pierre Levy, who represented Littell with his law partner, Daniel J. O’Friel, said the jury awarded her $1 million in punitive damages and another $360,000 in compensatory damages for the loss of her job and emotional distress.

Aakhus died in April 2003 of an illness.

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