Discrimination case wins $20 million verdict against American Family Insurance

A Jackson County Circuit Court jury on Friday awarded $20 million in punitive damages in a case that alleged retaliation, age and sex discrimination against an American Family Insurance sales manager.

The plaintiff, Deborah A. Miller of Blue Springs, brought the case against the company and John Bosman, a former Missouri state director of the company who supervised Miller.

Miller, 60, continues to be an American Family agent after she was removed from her manager position in a corporate restructuring.

A spokesman for American Family said Monday that the company strongly disagrees with the verdict “and believe it is contrary to the facts and testimony that were presented at trial.”

Ken Muth, media relations director for the company, based in Madison, Wisc., said: “We do not illegally discriminate in any way, and there was no discrimination in this situation. We are considering our options for appeal.”

Attorneys for Miller said they believed the jury agreed that Miller was targeted as part of a corporate movement to let older workers go and hire younger ones.

“I think the jury was affected by the testimony that Bosman told Miller that ‘this will not end well’ when he put her on a performance improvement plan while she was on a company-qualified medical leave,” said Dennis Egan, who with Kevin Baldwin represented Miller in the lawsuit.

The plaintiff’s case included testimony that Miller was an award-winning sales manager and had produced results on par with or better than her peers who were younger and mostly men.

Egan said the plaintiff’s attorneys asked the jury to send “a message of significance that would capture the attention” of the American Family headquarters. The jury also awarded $450,000 in actual damages.

Jeffrey Hanslick and Curtis Summers, attorneys with the Littler Mendelson law firm in Kansas City, represented American Family in the case.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford