ATTORNEYS FOR the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica and part-owner Tehmina Adaya are requesting a new trial after a jury found that the defendants violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

The owners of the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica are requesting a new trial four months after a jury found that they had discriminated against a Jewish group that held an event at the hotel in 2010.
Attorneys for Hotel Shangri-La and part owner Tehmina Adaya have recently filed separate motions in California Superior Court including a request for a new trial and for a reduction or reversal of a prior jury verdict.
Supporters of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, who were attending a charity event at the hotel in 2010, charged in a lawsuit that they were ordered to remove banners and literature and leave the pool area after Adaya learned that the group is Jewish. The complaint alleged that Adaya, a Muslim, used profanities and derogatory language when she instructed staff to remove the Jewish visitors and their items from the pool.
A Superior Court jury decided Aug. 15 that Adaya and the hotel had violated the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating based on age, sex, race or religion, when she ordered the eviction of the Jewish group members and the disbanding of their event.
Jurors additionally found that the defendants inflicted emotional distress and were liable for negligence. The 19 plaintiffs were awarded more than $1.6 million in damages.
Adaya has retained new lawyers in the case whose motion requests that a new trial be granted on the claim that the evidence was insufficient to justify the verdict, the damages awarded were excessive, there was inadmissible testimony and jury misconduct.
“We believe that the ruling is both legally and factually incorrect,” Steve Richman, attorney for Adaya, said of the decision on the Unruh Civil Rights Act violation.
James Turken, the attorney for the plaintiffs, called the defendants’ appeal “absolutely anticipated,” given that they were unsuccessful in the previous trial. He remained confident in the jury’s verdict and said the court will deal with the defendants’ claims for a new trial at the hearing later this month.
“The jurors found 12-0 that the defendants committed the acts of discrimination,” Turken said.
The plaintiffs’ attorney expressed doubt that the case would return to trial, saying the defendants would have to meet the various standards and they were given a fair process the last time.
“In this case, they had a full and fair trial and the jurors determined that they were wrong,” Turken said.
Adaya firmly maintains her innocence against the discrimination accusations and continues to deny that she made any disparaging comments against the Jewish group, said Shangri-La spokesman Miles Lozano.
Richman argued that the alleged discriminatory comments were attributed to a former employee who did not show up in court to testify.
“I think it’s undisputed that not one of the plaintiffs heard her say anything to that effect; they all heard it from a former disgruntled employee of a company that had a contract there,” he said.
Turken said he’s not surprised that Adaya continues to dispute the comments and believes her primary regret is with the result of the trial.
“All of her acts are after the fact. The only thing she’s sorry about is that she was found liable,” he said.
Prior to a planned protest by the western region of the Zionist Organization of America in August, Adaya issued a statement supporting Jewish organizations and denouncing anti-Semitism.
“I care deeply about the hurt, anger and misunderstanding that has resulted and I want the Jewish and pro-Israel community to know I condemn anti-Semitism,” Adaya stated.
She announced the donations of $3,600 each to pro-Israel groups, the Koby Mandell Foundation and Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization. In addition, Adaya invited leaders of the Jewish and pro-Israel community to attend a private event at the Shangri-La.
Lozano said the hotel is hosting a Purim-related event for leaders of the Jewish and pro-Israel community Feb. 24. Purim is a Jewish holiday commemorating the deliverance of Jewish people from destruction in the ancient Persian Empire.
Turken has filed a motion seeking $2.2 million in attorneys fees against the defendants. Adaya’s attorney Steven Huskey said the defendants will file an opposition motion to reduce the attorneys fees and a hearing is scheduled Feb. 11.
The hearing on the request for a new trial and motion for judgement not withstanding the verdict is scheduled for Jan. 31.