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Tailhook award: $1.7-million

A federal jury has ordered the Las Vegas Hilton to pay former naval aviator Paula Coughlin $1.7-million.

The U.S. District Court jury found that the hotel chain failed to provide adequate security at the 1991 Tailhook Association convention. More than 80 women claimed to have been assaulted or molested there by drunken Navy and Marine aviators.

Coughlin contended the sexual assault ended her career.

The jury awarded her $1.7-million in compensatory damages, such as future loss of income and medical expenses. The jury also ruled the hotel and its parent corporation acted with malice, so it will return Monday to decide on punitive damages, aimed at punishing a wrongdoer and deterring such future conduct.

Coughlin dabbed her face gently with a handkerchief as the four-man, four-woman jury read its verdict. Her mother, sitting in the front row of the courtroom, wept.

It was the first verdict to result from the convention.

The Navy and Marine Corps pursued 140 harassment cases. None led to a court-martial.

Coughlin, 32, resigned from the Navy in February, saying she had endured unrelenting pressure because of her complaint.

Coughlin's attorney said in closing arguments that she should receive $5- to $10-million in damages.

The victory seems certain to set the stage for at least a dozen other lawsuits against the hotel.

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