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Additional $440,000 in punitive damages imposed on Hotel Shangri-La

by Jonah Lowenfeld

August 16, 2012 | 10:56 pm

The Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica. Photo by Jonah Lowenfeld

One day after it found that the Hotel Shangri-La and its part-owner had discriminated against a group of young Jews in 2010, a jury in California Superior Court ordered the hotel and owner to pay approximately $440,000 in additional punitive damages to the plaintiffs.

That brings the total amount of the payment due to the young Jewish Angelenos who brought the discrimination lawsuit to over $1.6 million.

The hotel’s part-owner and co-defendant, Tehmina Adaya, was not present in court on Aug. 16, despite a request from the court the day before that she appear.

Ellen Adelman, the hotel’s chief business development officer, was one of a number of members of the hotel staff in court on Thursday. She said Adaya was disappointed in the verdict and intended to appeal the jury’s decision.

“I’ve worked for Tehmina Adaya for over two years and I have always received the utmost respect from her,” Adelman, who is Jewish, said. Adaya, who was born in Pakistan, is Muslim.

“I found it a very one-sided case,” Adelman added.

[Related: Jewish plaintiffs win Hotel Shangri-La discrimination lawsuit]

The proceedings that took place on Thursday were solely devoted to calculating punitive damages in the trial, so the witnesses who testified – including accountants for Adaya and the hotel – focused their remarks on matters that could help the jury to determine the net worth of the hotel and its owner.

In his testimony, Kapil Jain, the hotel’s CPA, said that the 70-room hotel in Santa Monica had been appraised in 2011 and found to be worth $31 million. Adaya’s personal CPA, Ismail Sattar, testified that Adaya had earned wages of about $200,000 in 2009 and 2010, but did not disclose any information about the handful of investment trusts that include her as a beneficiary.

As was the case throughout the trial, this second phase was also characterized by disputes of fact. In his testimony, Sattar said that to calculate the value of Adaya’s personal home at $1.5 million, he used the real estate assessment web site Zillow.com.

But attorney James Turken, who represented the 18 plaintiffs in the case, called a third witness to the stand, real estate agent Mark Rogo. Drawing on a number of other resources, including assessors public records, Rogo concluded that Adaya’s home was likely worth “just under $4.8 million.”

Like the defendants, however, the plaintiffs remained focused on the message the jury had sent in its verdict the day before.

Ari Ryan, who had spent the entirety of the trial – 19 days, from the start of jury selection to the final day – in the courtroom, said he was “very satisfied and proud of this verdict.” 

“We stood together as a group, as members of our community, to stand up to injustice,” Ryan said.

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