A judge has ordered a new trial over discrimination claims made by “Price Is Right” model Brandi Cochran, wiping out her earlier $7.7 million victory.
Last November, Cochran won her lawsuit against producers FremantleMedia North America and The Price Is Right Productions after successfully arguing that she was discriminated against and wrongfully terminated after becoming pregnant.
But because the jury received bad instructions, the case is now going back to trial, Cochran’s attorney confirmed to ABC News. The new date for the trial has not yet been set.
The show’s producers, who appealed the verdict, got it set aside thanks to a recent California Supreme Court decision over jury instructions in discrimination cases. In such cases, judges must instruct the jury that discrimination is not just a “motivating factor/reason” for termination but a “substantial motivating factor/reason.”
In Cochran’ case, Judge Kevin Brazile failed to issue the “substantial” guidance, despite a request from the defense.
“The instruction error cannot be considered harmless,” Brazile wrote in Tuesday’s ruling, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Of central importance to the case was the weight given to discriminatory intent and whether that intent need only be of a mere motivating factor or a substantial factor. Given this central dispute, the failure to give the proper instruction regarding substantial factor cannot be considered harmless, and a new trial must be granted.”
Cochran, now 41, was pregnant with twins after years of trying to conceive but, she said, the show’s executive producer was not pleased.
“He was mad at me and it was hard to comprehend someone upset that I was having twins,” she told ABC affiliate KABC-TV last November. “And then I would get questions, ‘How long are you going to work?’ ‘Are you going to work if you get really big?’”
The former model said her co-workers called her a “wide load” and said she would break the set with her added pounds from pregnancy. When Cochran’s baby bump started to show, the producers stopped calling her completely.
Months after her maternity leave in 2010, Cochran tried to return to the show but was rejected, she said.
“They ignored me, for probably about four months, trying to get a direct response about working,” she told KABC.
Cochran’s attorney, Carney Shegerian, told The Associated Press Wednesday that Brazile’s ruling was proper and he expects the damages to go even higher in the case.
“I think on re-trial I’ll get triple or quadruple that,” he said.