Lucasfilm Pregnancy Lawsuit: Film Company Granted Legal Victory

FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2011 photo, a life-sized replica of Yoda, George Lucas’ master of the Force, is shown at Lucasfilm Ltd
FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2011 photo, a life-sized replica of Yoda, George Lucas’ master of the Force, is shown at Lucasfilm Ltd. production studios in San Francisco. Lucas is moving forward with plans to build a park complete with a statue of Yoda and Indiana Jones in his Marin County hometown of San Anselmo, Calif. Lucas has applied for a permit to demolish the existing buildings at the site. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

A bitterly fought pregnancy discrimination case against Lucasfilm Ltd. is headed back to Marin Superior Court.

The California Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it would not review a lower court's decision to reverse a $1.3 million verdict against Lucasfilm in the case.

"We are pleased that the Supreme Court let stand our victory in the Veronese case," said Lucasfilm spokeswoman Lynne Hale, referring to plaintiff Julie Gilman Veronese. "If Ms. Veronese decides to pursue a new trial we are confident we will prevail."

Veronese's lawyer, Angela Alioto, said she plans to ask for a trial date in the near future.

"This trial, I know it by heart. I could do it in my sleep," said Alioto, who is Veronese's mother-in-law. "I believe we will win again, and bigger. I believe the new jury will even find malice."

Lucasfilm has been acquired by Disney since the first trial, a change that might affect the potential for a settlement.

Veronese filed the lawsuit in 2009 after a job fell through at the San Anselmo estate of "Star Wars" filmmaker George Lucas. Veronese, then 36, had applied for a position as assistant to Sarita Patel, the estate manager.

Veronese, who was hired but never started work, claimed she was terminated because she became pregnant. Lucasfilm attorneys denied the allegations, suggesting Veronese had a poor attitude and that she concealed her pregnancy until she was hired because she wanted to exploit the company benefits.

After a three-week trial that included testimony by George Lucas, a Marin jury ruled in 2010 that Lucasfilm committed pregnancy discrimination, failure to prevent pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination. The jury rejected two of Veronese's claims, retaliation and failure to accommodate a disability.

Veronese was awarded $113,830 in economic damages and $1.2 million in attorney's fees.

Lucasfilm appealed the verdict, claiming the jury received flawed jury instructions from the trial judge, Lynn O'Malley Taylor.

In December, the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Lucasfilm and reversed the verdict, sending it back to Marin Superior Court for a new trial.

Veronese appealed to the state Supreme Court, where at least four of the nine justices must agree it merits review.

Contact Gary Klien via email at ___

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