592 F.3d 1201 (11th Cir. 2010), 08-16291, Myers v. Central Florida Investments, Inc.

Docket Nº:08-16291.
Citation:592 F.3d 1201
Opinion Judge:MARCUS, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Dawn Georgette MYERS, Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant, v. CENTRAL FLORIDA INVESTMENTS, INC., David Siegel, et al., Defendants-Appellants-Cross-Appellees.
Attorney:Victor S. Kline, Myrna L. Maysonet, Michael Ellis Marder, Greenspoon, Marder, Hirschfeld & Rafkin, Ross & Berger, Orlando, FL, Richard W. Epstein, Greenspoon Marder, P.A., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, for Defendants. Richard E. Johnson, Melissa Horwitz, Law Office of Richard E.Johnson, Tallahassee, FL, fo...
Judge Panel:Before MARCUS, FAY and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:January 06, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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592 F.3d 1201 (11th Cir. 2010)

Dawn Georgette MYERS, Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant,


CENTRAL FLORIDA INVESTMENTS, INC., David Siegel, et al., Defendants-Appellants-Cross-Appellees.

No. 08-16291.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 6, 2010

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Victor S. Kline, Myrna L. Maysonet, Michael Ellis Marder, Greenspoon, Marder, Hirschfeld & Rafkin, Ross & Berger, Orlando, FL, Richard W. Epstein, Greenspoon Marder, P.A., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, for Defendants.

Richard E. Johnson, Melissa Horwitz, Law Office of Richard E.Johnson, Tallahassee, FL, for Myers.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Before MARCUS, FAY and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.

MARCUS, Circuit Judge.

Defendants Central Florida Investments, Inc., Westgate Resorts, Inc., Westgate Resorts, Ltd., CFI Sales and Marketing, Ltd., and David Siegel appeal and plaintiff Dawn Georgette Myers cross-appeals the judgment of the district court, after a jury trial, in favor of Myers in the amount of $610,469.84. Myers recovered $103,622.09 in compensatory damages and $506,847.75 in punitive damages arising from her claim of state law battery, but took nothing on her claims of sexual harassment under state and federal civil rights acts. Defendants challenge the awards under state and federal law, asserting that the evidence can support neither the compensatory award nor the punitive award. Myers, in turn, asserts that the district court improperly limited punitive damages, barred evidence of harassment, denied her fees, and dismissed her state law claims. Because the district court correctly answered the many questions raised in these appeals, we affirm its judgment in all respects.

I. Background

A. Facts

The essential facts adduced at trial are these: Central Florida Investments, Inc.

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(" CFI" ), is the parent company for a number of associated entities-Westgate Resorts, Inc., Westgate Resorts, Ltd., Westgate Lakes, Inc., Westgate Lakes, Ltd., and CFI Sales and Marketing, Ltd.-which collectively comprise a real estate company whose primary business is the development and sale of time-share resorts throughout the United States. Siegel is the chairman of the board, president, chief executive officer, and sole stockholder of CFI. CFI, which is the largest privately held time-share company in the world, is valued at approximately $471,000,000, while Siegel himself has a net worth of some $324,000,000.

Dawn Myers testified that she first came to work at CFI as a salesperson in 1986. She had a real estate license, and her job required her to sell time-shares. Myers was also an award-winning cosmetologist who was licensed to do hair, nails, spa treatments, and skin care. Cosmetology was her professional passion, and she hoped one day to develop a spa at one of CFI's resorts.

In 1994, Myers called the CFI corporate office in order to request an appointment with Siegel so that she could make her pitch. Siegel, on hearing her thoughts, encouraged her to pursue the project, and, as Myers developed the concept, the two went on to communicate about it every week for about a year. Finally, Siegel authorized the creation of the spa.

During the ensuing period, Myers claims that she split her time at CFI, working in the morning in sales and working in the afternoon on the spa. She began to draw a regular salary, rather than work on straight commission. She also spent a lot of time dealing with Siegel, and the two developed a friendship. Myers would later testify, " what he told me that we had in common was the fact that we're both ambitious, we both are hard workers, [and] we both, if we believe in something, you know, we go for it."

Siegel was interested in Myers romantically, and their friendship began to change as Siegel made that increasingly clear. According to Myers, it was at the CFI Christmas dance in 1995 where Siegel made his first unwanted advance. Siegel had asked Myers to dance, and as they danced he kissed her. Myers was shocked. Siegel's overtures towards Myers continued. He twice offered, at CFI functions and in Myers' presence, $1,000,000 to Myers' boyfriend for one night with Myers. Myers considered the offers to be disrespectful and inappropriate. On several occasions, Siegel made marriage proposals to Myers, some more serious than others, some on company property, and at least one in the presence of other CFI employees. He offered to buy Myers lavish gifts, including a Porsche, if she agreed to date him. And once, unsolicited, he even gave her a $10,000 check. Myers was devastated: " I started crying and I said, you know, how could you do this? ... I said I don't need your help. Our friendship does not have a price tag on it. How many times do I have to tell you? I don't want your money. I don't need your help."

Siegel's pursuit of Myers also began to color their interactions in the workplace. Myers testified that he transferred her to a new office, and informed her that he had done it so that she would be closer to him. He began to visit her in the office nearly every day at 11 a.m., even asking for her if he could not find her himself. When he did find her, she testified at trial, he would give her a hug and sometimes let his hands slip down to her behind, in full view of her coworkers. Sometimes he slapped her behind at work in front of her staff. During lunches at CFI, Siegel would fondle Myers' legs for everyone to see; he

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touched her legs at the company restaurant at least twenty times, and probably many more. Siegel also made inappropriate comments to Myers at work. He talked about her weight, and at the company gym, he told her that " your ass is getting fat," but that it was " okay, because [your] boobs are big." And, at a company awards dinner one night, Siegel told the CFI crowd that he had asked Myers to come as his date, but that she had refused him. She testified that the incident made her terribly embarrassed.

Myers and Siegel frequently traveled together, and these trips generally fueled the tension between them. Thus, for example, Siegel and Myers traveled together for business to the Bahamas, where, she testified, he propositioned her. Similarly, in 1997, Myers agreed to travel to New York with Siegel on business. Myers, who was first told that they would have separate hotel rooms, and who was later told that they would have separate bedrooms in the same suite, said that she grew " absolutely furious" upon discovering that their hotel room had only one bedroom. She went to the bathroom and cried, but resolved nevertheless to go about her business in New York as planned. Myers also agreed to accompany Siegel-as his friend-to attend the bar mitzvah of the son of a CFI executive in Miami. She became " very angry," however, when Siegel invited her on a romantic walk on the beach.

On multiple occasions, Myers asked Siegel to stop his inappropriate behavior. Myers testified that, " every time I went to him and sincerely asked him, please, David, stop," he told her that he would not do it again. " He seemed extremely sincere that he would stop, with the exception of the times that he would make a joke and say I want people to think that, you know, we're together or you're my girlfriend." Myers testified that Siegel in fact wanted people to think that they were together.

Yet Myers and Siegel continued to work closely together, and continued to be friends. Myers testified, " it never crossed my mind at that time to sever my friendship with him," because " he was my friend and he was important to me and he ... had given me this opportunity and I was extremely grateful, extremely grateful." Myers saw Siegel as a mentor: " how many people get an opportunity to have someone like Mr. Siegel who's brilliant in business in so many ways to, you know, be their friend, to coach them, to anytime if I need to talk to him and I picked up the phone, he would take my call. I mean it meant everything to me."

Myers considered taking a harder line with Siegel, but she said that she feared losing her job: " number one, he's my boss." She thought that, because she did not have a college degree, she might flounder professionally outside of CFI. She also testified that she could not simply quit: " I have a home .... I had bills to pay. I was taking care of my mom. I can't just quit my job. I'm the only one that pays my bills. I couldn't do it. And I really thought that some day it would stop."

Work on the spa continued. Construction began in 1997 or 1998, Myers was named the executive director of the spa, and she stopped working in sales in order to devote her full attention to development of the spa. She was given control over management of the facility, including design and staffing, subject to approval from the front office.

According to Myers, once the spa opened in November of 1999, it became a frequent site of Siegel's unwelcome advances. On eight to ten occasions, Siegel came to the spa looking for treatments from Myers. Towards the end of these

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sessions, Siegel would, Myers testified, " let his hands wander and wander up the back of my legs and on to my butt." She asked him to stop, and pushed his hands away, but he persisted. Furthermore, on several occasions, towards the end of the treatments, Siegel would expose himself unnecessarily to Myers; he would do so with " a big old smile on his face ..., so I would think he knew he was doing it."

Several times Jackie Siegel, who was Siegel's third wife, joined Siegel and Myers in the spa. One time, while Jackie was present, Siegel told Myers...

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