In Final Verdict, Jury Rules Against Pao On All Four Claims In Ellen Pao Vs. Kleiner Perkins

Updated: After several days of deliberations, a San Francisco Superior Court jury has come to a conclusion in Ellen Pao Vs. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the gender discrimination trial that began with a lawsuit filed in May 2012 and culminated this past month in a closely watched five-week-long courtroom trial.

The jury has ruled “no” on all four claims Pao leveled against Kleiner Perkins. This is a unequivocal finding in favor of Kleiner Perkins.

Just as a refresher, since there have been a lot of details bandied about these past few weeks, Pao’s complaint boiled down to four claims. Here they are in question form, along with the jury’s answers on them:

  • Was Ellen Pao’s gender a substantial motivating reason for Kleiner Perkins’ not promoting her to the levels of senior partner as well as general partner? [This is the gender discrimination element to the case.] Jury answer: NO
  • Were Pao’s conversations in December 2011 and/or her January 4th 2012 memo to John Doerr, in which she complained about the alleged gender discrimination she encountered at the firm, a substantial motivating reason for her not being promoted to senior partner and general partner? [This is the retaliation part of the case.] Jury answer: No
  • Did Kleiner Perkins fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent gender discrimination against Ellen Pao? Jury answer: An automatic NO, since it could only be answered if jurors answered yes to question 1 — after all, if there were no gender discrimination, the question would be moot.
  • Were Pao’s conversations in December 2011 and/or her January 4th 2012 memo and/or her filing of this lawsuit a substantial motivating reason for Kleiner Perkins’ decision to terminate Pao’s employment in October 2012? [This is also under retaliation.] Jury Answer: NO

You can see the official verdict form as it was filled out by the jury here.

Pao’s legal team was asking for approximately $16 million in lost income, and stood to receive an additional $144 million in punitive damages. Now that Pao has lost, she must pay part of Kleiner’s trial bills, including its expert witness fees.

A false alarm

This final verdict came at approximately 4:30pm Pacific Time, after one major false alarm. The press was initially called to the courthouse for a 2:00pm Pacific Time verdict reading, which was at first also “No” on all four claims. But when the judge individually asked for each of the juror’s rulings verbally, he found that the fourth claim, on whether Pao’s termination from Kleiner Perkins was an act of retaliation for filing the lawsuit, had reached only an 8-4 ruling. Each claim had to reach a consensus from at least 9 jurors.

It seemed at first that this was a simple math mistake. But it turns out that one of the jurors had changed his decision between the deliberations and the verdict reading, without telling the others (there is buzz that several jurors turned their heads in surprise upon hearing a “yes” from one of the male jurors on the fourth claim, though we didn’t see that from our vantage point.) The jury was then escorted out of the courtroom to continue deliberations, and the audience was ordered back into the hallway.

After nearly two hours of additional deliberations, the jury returned to the courtroom with a final verdict of “No” on the fourth claim. The first two claims had a jury consensus of 10 to 2, and the fourth claim was at 9 to 3 (the third claim was not eligible for a vote, since the consensus on claim one was no.)

Statements from Kleiner and Pao

Kleiner Perkins has released the following statement on the verdict:

“Today’s verdict reaffirms that Ellen Pao’s claims have no legal merit. We are grateful to the jury for its careful examination of the facts. There is no question gender diversity in the workplace is an important issue. KPCB remains committed to supporting women in venture capital and technology both inside our firm and within our industry.”

Ellen Pao also held a short press conference in which she read a statement. You can read about that, and see video of her remarks, here.

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