Bikram Choudhury’s losing legal streak continued last month in a Los Angeles court. The notorious yoga guru has been ordered to pay $924,500 in compensatory damages to his former personal attorney, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden. The day after the verdict the jury also awarded her a whopping $6.47 million for punitive damages.
The lawsuit was sparked in 2013 after Choudhury fired Jafa-Bodden when she started investigating claims by his yoga students of sexual harassment and rape. Her lawsuit claimed that she was also sexually harassed and suffered retaliation and discrimination by Choudhury.
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At the end of the January trial the jurors deliberated for almost a day and then gave a unanimous verdict in favor of Jafa-Bodden. Choudhury was also found by the jury to act with malice, oppression, and fraud, which allowed Jafa-Bodden to seek punitive damages. The next day in court Jafa-Bodden’s lawyer urged jurors to “slap Choudhury with between one and nine times the amount of the compensatory damages.” They decided on a multiple of seven, which brought the total amount awarded just under $7.4 million.
During the trial Choudhury claimed to be “almost bankrupt” but then refused to disclose any requested financial statements or properly explain how he still affords to own a collection of over 30 luxury cars. But with his wife recently filing for divorce, a wrongful termination suit filed last year, as well as other sexual harassment lawsuits pending, his muti-million dollar yoga empire may indeed be feeling financially strained.
In January another sexual harassment lawsuit was settled out of court, and five other lawsuits against Choudhury are currently pending. All six women have alleged that he had sexually assaulted or harassed them. While Choudhury continues to claim his innocence and Los Angeles County prosecutors declined to file criminal charges, this legal defeat is not a good omen that Choudhury’s legal woes will end soon or end well.
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