Oct 17, 2016

Bikram Yoga Founder May Lose over 40 Luxury Cars in Sexual Harassment Case



Teresa Lo


Summary: The founder of Bikram Yoga may end up turning over 40 luxury cars to pay off his sexual harassment judgment. 


Earlier this year, the founder of Bikram Yoga got into hot trouble when a judge ruled that he would have to pay $6.7 million to settle a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit. On Thursday, it appeared that the now bankrupt Bikram Choudhury may end up forking over his stock, a multimillion dollar diamond watch, and his bevy of cars to pay the judgment.

Choudhury was sued by his ex-attorney, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, in 2013. She said he harassed her when she was working for him and that he fired her after she investigated a rape claim from a student. Numerous other yogis claimed that he acted inappropriately with them as well.

The creator of the global phenom Bikram Yoga, which is yoga performed in a hot room, originally denied wrongdoing, and he said that his legal bills and bad press from the lawsuit left him bankrupt. However, during his trial he admitted to owning over 40 luxury cars, which he said was to be used for the “Bikram auto engineering school for children.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the remark drew smirks and laughs from the jury.

The 12-day trial occurred in January, and it resulted in Jafa-Bodden being awarded $6.4 million in punitive damages, $1 million in compensatory damages, and $1.1 million in legal fees. In April, a judge reduced her punitive award to $4.6 million, bringing her new total win to $6.7 million.

According to Law 360, Jafa-Bodden wanted to go after Choudhury’s assets, including his cars, to pay the judgment, but Choudhury claimed that he did not own or possess the property and that the plaintiff needed to provide a preponderance of evidence that he did. On Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark A. Borenstein asked Choudhoury’s attorney to turn in a supplement brief to support his argument.

“My view, at least tentatively, is [the plaintiffs] do not have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence in this proceeding that your client owns at this time an interest in the vehicles or the stock,” Judge Borenstein said. “Your whole point is in post-judgment proceedings, everything has to be based on admissible evidence … a preponderance of evidence. I don’t think that’s right, and I haven’t seen any authority other than your assertion.”

Borenstein added that if Choudhury does not turn over his property which includes Ferraris, Bentleys, and Rolls Royces, the matter would be heard in a contempt proceeding.

Earlier this month, Choudhury was banned from “transferring, assigning, or disposing” of any alleged personal property, which was reportedly valued at $2.7 million. However, Jafa-Bodden, who is represented by Joseph Chora of Chora Young LLP, claimed that after the January judgment, much of the sought after property was already transferred to an entity called Bikram Hot Yoga LTD.

Choudhury is appealing the jury verdict, which he has said has financially ruined him. He is represented by attorney Mark L. Share of De Castro West Chodorow Mendler Glickfeld & Nass Inc. and Robert W. Cohen and Mariko Taenaka of the Law Offices of Robert W. Cohen.

Source: Law 360



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