American Family ordered to pay Missouri woman $20 million

A Missouri woman who sued American Family Insurance for retaliation and age and sex discrimination has been awarded $20 million in punitive damages.

Deborah Miller, 60, of Blue Springs, also was awarded $450,000 in actual damages on Friday by a Jackson County jury, The Kansas City Star reported ( ). She was removed from her manager position in a corporate restructuring but continues to be a company agent.

Ken Muth, a spokesman for American Family, based in Madison, Wisconsin, said Monday that the company strongly disagrees with the verdict "and believe it is contrary to the facts and testimony that were presented at trial."

"We do not illegally discriminate in any way, and there was no discrimination in this situation. We are considering our options for appeal," Muth said.

Miller's attorneys said they believed the jury agreed that Miller was targeted as part of a corporate effort to replace older workers with younger hires.

Dennis Egan said he thought the jury was affected by testimony that John Bosman, a former Missouri state director of the company who supervised Miller, told Miller "this will not end well" when he put her on a performance improvement plan while she was on medical leave.

Testimony in the case indicated Miller was an award-winning sales manager who produced similar or better results than her peers who were younger and mostly men.

Egan said the plaintiff's attorneys asked the jury to send "a message of significance that would capture the attention" of the American Family headquarters.


Information from: The Kansas City Star,