Jury awards Bakersfield man $1 million in damages in job suit

A Kern County jury in what Bakersfield attorney John Hall described as a rare occurrence recently awarded a Bakersfield man $1 million in punitive damages.
The same jury already had awarded Michael Lenk $260,320 in compensatory damages after they found Total-Western Inc. had breached its contract with Lenk.
“The juries don’t see many of these cases,” Hall said. “I don’t think many of them get to court due to an employee thinking he doesn’t stand a chance.”
Thomas Anton, who represented Total-Western, couldn’t be reached for coment.
The case centered on an area of employment law called fraudulent inducement, a topic getting lots of attention of late, Hall said.
Lenk was working as corporate purchasing agent for ARB Inc., a construction company, in 1996 when Total-Western officials approached Lenk and offered him a job.
After negotiations, Lenk accepted the job.
But five months later, Lenk was fired for what was described as “economic reasons.”
Hall contended Total-Western never met promises made to Lenk when he was hired.