Judge poised to toss lawsuit against Pacers owner

A judge suggested Wednesday she plans to throw out key portions

of a lawsuit by a nanny who claims she was fired by Indiana Pacers

owner Herb Simon and his wife because she became pregnant.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue, who planned to issue

her decision Thursday, rebuffed hours of arguments by the attorney

for nanny Claudia Leite, saying she didn’t believe much of the

nanny’s testimony.

”I can’t remember a case with so much impeaching testimony and

things that didn’t make sense,” Hogue told Leite’s attorney,

Joseph Davis. ”It’s astounding.”

She said she also doubted the testimony of a chauffeur who

joined in the lawsuit.

The case offered insight into the lifestyle of a super-rich

family with several homes and private jet. Simon, and his wife,

Bui, a former Miss Universe, have homes in California and Indiana

and travel with a staff that includes nannies for their four

children. His family founded the Indiana-based Simon Property

Group. According to Forbes, his net worth is $1.4 billion.

”It’s hard to infer an anti-family, anti-pregnancy animus from

Mrs. Simon when her whole history has been pro-child,” said the

judge. She noted that Bui Simon runs a foundation for orphans and

she adopted the daughter of a sister who died and raised her as her

own child even before she married Simon.

”She’s not someone who had children and abandoned them to

nannies,” said the judge. ”She drove them to school, fed them,

put them to bed.”

She also noted that Bui Simon had been extremely generous to

Leite, who worked for the Simons for eight years. She said the

Simons gave Leite $20,000 to help her mother buy a house in Brazil,

gave her a used Mercedes for her personal use and an $11,000 pair

of diamond earrings for a birthday.

”It’s hard for me to reconcile that with some secret spiteful

animus,” said the judge who ridiculed the idea that Mrs. Simon was

secretly ”the Wicked Witch of the West or Cruella DeVille.”

Attorney Joseph Davis, representing Leite and chauffeur Robert

Young, said in his hours-long argument that Bui Simon tried to

humiliate Leite by giving her some of her used pregnancy clothes

which were too small for her. The judge said the motive wasn’t

believable. She also rejected a complaint by Leite that during a

trip to Indianapolis, Bui Simon refused to let her go to an

emergency room when she experienced discomfort with her

pregnancy.

Instead, Leite acknowledged her employer called a friend who was

an eminent neo natal doctor and sought his opinion on the

phone.

”To me what she did was reasonable and kind,” said the judge.

She also noted that other employees in the Simon household

testified that they were given generous maternity leaves when they

became pregnant. Instead of avoiding pregnant employees, she said

Bui Simon ”continued to hire employees who had more and more

children.”

Leite was dismissed because of a screaming argument she had with

another member of the household staff, the judge said, noting the

incident caused the children to cry.

”This is not IBM and computer scientists in a cubicle,” Hogue

said. ”This is a family.”

She said Bui Simon had to act to insure calm in the household.

She suspended both women for a time, she said, but Leite was fired

after a phone conversation in which she told her employer: ”It’s

your fault. You made the children cry.” The judge called it ”a

belligerent response.”

She said, ”It is undisputed that the Simons were generally

delighted with her care of the children,” but by the end of the

relationship, they no longer liked Leite.

The Simons sat through every day of the three-week trial and

gave testimony. Their lawyer, Patricia Glaser, said they refused to

consider a settlement with the employees.