A federal judge cut millions from former University of Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller’s award in her discrimination lawsuit but added millions to the university’s legal bill.
Calling the $3 million in damages awarded last year “shockingly excessive,” United States District Judge Patrick Schiltz instead offered $750,000 in noneconomic damages on top of her $1.2 million awarded for pay and benefits. Miller has until Sept. 20 to accept the reduced award or request a new trial to contest the amount, according to the Friday ruling.
Schiltz also ordered the university to pay $2.4 million for Miller’s legal fees and expenses.
Miller ran the UMD women’s hockey team for 16 years and won five national titles before the university declined to renew her contract late in 2014.
In his ruling, Schiltz wrote that Miller was “completely vindicated” on her discrimination and retaliation claims.
“The evidence at trial left no doubt that Miller was a world class hockey coach and that UMD’s decision not to renew her contract shocked many people familiar with the world of Division I women’s hockey,” Schiltz wrote. “Of course, the mere fact that others were surprised by UMD’s decision does not mean that UMD acted unlawfully. But it provides context for other evidence in the case — evidence that, taken together, provided a sufficient basis for the jury’s findings of discrimination and retaliation.”
The university said in a statement that it was pleased that the judge reduced the $3 million award. “With respect to the other aspects of the decision, we are still analyzing the judge’s decision and the various legal options available to us,” said Tim Pramas, senior associate general counsel with the University of Minnesota.
Donald Chance Mark Jr., who represents Miller, said he was “obviously disappointed” with Schiltz’s decision to cut damages, and he does not know yet if Miller will decide to request a new trial.
However, the attorney said he also sees Schiltz’s affirmation of the jury’s verdict as “vindicating” for Miller.
“Our hope is to get full compensation and then, frankly, to get her back employed again,” Mark said. “I think one of the biggest disappointments for all of us who have worked on this case is that a person of her stature and a person of her talents, with five national championships and Olympic medals to her credit, still can’t get a job coaching women’s college hockey.”
Staff writer Katie Galioto contributed to this report.