A judge in a Santa Monica courthouse rejected a request for a new trial from the Hotel Shangri-La and its owner on Jan. 31.
In August 2012, a jury found the boutique hotel in Santa Monica and its owner, Tehmina Adaya, guilty of discriminating against a group of young Jews and others who were attending a party at the hotel’s pool. On Thursday morning, Judge H. Chester Horn, Jr., who presided over the original case, denied a motion for a new trial as well as another post-trial motion submitted by attorneys representing Adaya and the Shangri-La.
Attorneys for the hotel, who had argued in a brief that a juror who cried during the original trial was grounds to grant a second trial, focused their arguments in court on the damages awarded to the plaintiffs, two of whom were in the courtroom on Thursday. The defense argued that the amount – more than $1.6 million awarded by the jury in different amounts to the 18 individual plaintiffs -- was excessive.
Even as he rejected the defense’s argument, Horn did direct a word of caution to the plaintiffs, saying that if an appeals court felt differently about the damages, it might not simply reduce the sum; the higher court could decide to grant the defendants’ request for a new trial as a remedy.
Adaya was not in court on Thursday, but Ellen Adelman, chief development officer for the Shangri-La, said the hotel would “absolutely” appeal the case in higher court, adding that she was “encouraged” by Horn’s remark.
James Turken, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said Horn’s statement might have been aimed at getting the parties to come to a settlement. Turken didn’t hold out much hope for that to happen, though.
“The decision was 100 percent in our favor," Turken said outside the courtroom on Thursday. “I expect this to go to the court of appeals because Ms. Adaya has been acting consistently with her past behavior, and refuses to accept reality.”