CONCORD — Two women who won a $3.76 million settlement against Fred Fuller Oil & Propane Co. Inc. for sexual misconduct and discrimination in the workplace will get nothing instead, according to a federal judge.
In an order dated Jan. 31, U.S. District Court in Concord rejected a last ditch appeal to allow Nichole Wilkins and the estate of Beverly Mulcahey to collect from Rymes Heating Oils, which purchased Fred Fuller Oil in 2014 while it was in bankruptcy.
Under a 2016 settlement with Fred Fuller Oil, Wilkins was awarded $2.74 million and Mulcahey was to receive $1.02 million.
They were also to split $270,000 in legal fees to pay attorneys, according to court records.
In their suit, the women alleged company founder Fred Fuller subjected them to repeated, unwanted and offensive sexual conduct at work.
But the May 2016 judgment they were awarded, by that time, was levied against a company that no longer existed.
In response, lawyers sued Rymes in Merrimack County Superior Court under a theory of successor liability.
That suit was later transferred to bankruptcy court, which dismissed it.
Wilkins and Mulcahey’s estate then launched their ultimately unsuccessful appeal in U.S. District Court, which again sided with Rymes.
“Rymes cannot reasonably be held liable for (Fred Fuller Oil’s) post-sale settlement of appellants’ claims, and so Rymes’s frustration with the appeal is understandable,” U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante wrote in the 15-page decision.
The workers “hoped that adversary proceedings against Fred J. Fuller, his family, and other associates would recover assets sufficient to substantially pay off the settlement,” Laplante wrote, noting such “efforts proved fruitless.”
It’s been a long road.
Wilkins quit her job in July 2011 after allegedly being subjected to Fred Fuller’s sexual harassment for five years.
In July 2011, Fuller was arrested and charged with misdemeanor sexual assault involving a woman at his Hudson office.
He was given a suspended 90-day sentence after entering a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor simple assault charge.
In October 2011, Wilkins informed Fuller she was filing a discrimination complaint against him.
A month later, Fuller allegedly fired Mulcahey, Wilkin’s friend and co-worker, in retaliation.
However, Fred Fuller Oil declared bankruptcy on the eve of the civil trial and in November 2014 a bankruptcy court judge approved the sale of financially troubled Fred Fuller Oil to Rymes.
An attorney for Rymes declined comment Tuesday.
An attorney representing Wilkins and Mulcahey’s estate wasn’t available for comment.