Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bergstein & Ullrich prevail in sexual harassment case

Jury awards Middletown woman $25,000 in harassment case; Former boss filing for bankruptcy

By Oliver Mackson
Times Herald-Record
Posted: February 28, 2009 - 6:00 AM

GOSHEN — A state Supreme Court jury on Wednesday awarded Felicia Cheathem of Middletown $25,000 for sexual harassment by her former boss.

Cheathem sued Stephen Ostrow and his Great American Brochure and Catalog Co. in 2005, seeking $150,000 in damages. In court papers, she accused him of groping her breasts, making sexual remarks and occasionally lifting her blazer to look at her buttocks. She said the conduct forced her to leave her job as a photo assistant after less than a month.

Ostrow lives in the Town of Mount Hope. His company is based in Slate Hill. The case went to trial last week, before Justice John K. McGuirk. The jury found Ostrow liable for damages, and McGuirk told them to return on Monday to decide a damage amount. On Monday morning, 45 minutes before the damage phase of the trial was to start, Ostrow and his wife, Monica, filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 13 of federal bankruptcy law. A bankruptcy petition stays most other court proceedings, but at the request of Helen Ullrich, one of Cheathem's lawyers, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Cecilia Morris allowed the state trial to continue.

Ostrow's lawyer, Richard Corde, said that the verdict might be appealed and that jurors he spoke with after the verdict felt they'd made a mistake in finding Ostrow liable. "They were trying to come up with a dollar amount that was as low as possible," he said. Corde also said that Ostrow had been considering a bankruptcy filing "for quite some time" before the trial.

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