Who win$ di$crimination law$uit$? The lawyer$, of cour$e.


About 3 years ago, after a 6-day trial, a Colorado federal jury concluded that a plaintiff had been retaliated against for participating in a discrimination complaint process. But, the jury didn’t award her much: $14,000 for out-of-pocket expenses, and $5,000 for emotional distress, pain, suffering, embarrassment, humiliation or damages to reputation.

Then, her lawyers filed a motion for attorney’s fees and costs.They requested $575,683.83.

Why so much? Well, there was an agency hearing, an administrative appeal, a petition to the EEOC Office of Federal Operations, a federal court complaint, a motion to compel discovery, a motion for partial summary judgment (followed by a joint motion to extend discovery deadlines), a motion for reconsideration (after the court did not grant summary judgment), a motion hearing, various conferences with the court, another motion for reconsideration, more motions, another hearing, a motion for sanctions, another conference, a jury trial (with lots of objections and evidentiary issues), a jury verdict, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, to alter or amend the judgment, a motion for a new trial, an appeal, a motion for voluntary dismissal of the appeal (which the plaintiff opposed), a reversal, a remand, a settlement conference, a pre-trial conference, a few more motions, another trial (I think), and a motion for attorney’s fees, a supplemental motion for attorney’s fees, and some other stuff that I probably missed.

All told, the court (here) awarded the plaintiff’s lawyers $241,007.60 in fees and costs of $3,511.89. (Less than half of what they requested — boo hoo).

The defendant was the  United States Social Security Administration. So, your tax dollars paid their attorney’s fees to defend the case.

The point here is that litigation is expensive. In discrimination cases, all the plaintiff has to do is win, and you’re on the hook for attorney’s fees (plus, however much or little the jury awards the plaintiff). Too boot, win or lose, you have to pay your own lawyer. What’s the solution? I don’t know. It’s what keeps me employed. Otherwise, I must return to stunt doubling for Rainier Wolfcastle.

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  • Managing

    What’s the solution? Don’t discriminate against your employees.

    • Carlitguy

      Flippant reply, Managing. That advice is no prophylactic, simply a small part of the full panoply of corporate activities to minimize exposure. “Don’t be ACCUSED of discriminating against your employees” is the only 100% successful method, and its not wholly (or even largely) in the control of the employer. One-way fee shifting provisions heavily tilt the economics in favor of plaintiff’s lawyer, regardless of the underlying merits – while plaintiffs have the whole host of purely human reasons to bring a claim, from the most blatant actual discrimination case to the most bogus. Insurers, meanwhile, in an effort to keep premiums down and avoid jackpot exposure, pay out on dubious claims with limited investigation simply to avoid the costs of litigation – which only encourages more claims. You see some of the same forces at work in other areas of the law where one-way fee shifting is the rule and defendant will likely bear the more onerous and expensive discovery costs, such as in “Lemon Law” and/or warranty litigation under the aegis of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

      • Managing

        Actually my reply is not flippant at all. The right thing to do is the right thing. The wrong thing may wind up being litigious. The best protection against discrimination is not to do it. In this particular case, the justice provided that the plaintiff prevailed because the truth was a discriminatory action occurred.

        I’ve seen this type of supercilious, detrimental behaviors from employers before. The “I can do anything I want because this business is mine,” or “I make the money, and I can do whatever the (bleep) I please.” — “If you don’t like get the (bleep) out.” I am not referring to demoralizing behavior which is just plain wrong, I am referring to clearly illegal behavior which some people have to put up with because they’ve no choice. They need to keep their job. This is disgusting and deplorable and should not be allowed in any civilized society. This is not a fiefdom and we are not indentured servants that have to pay a debt.

      • Managing

        My apologies for not replying. I just logged in after months of being away. Interesting reply as an attorney of course. It’s perfectly all right to act criminally just don’t get caught. Go right ahead steal, just don’t get caught. Go ahead kill someone, just don’t get caught.

        How much simpler would it be to not to do something illegal, at all then you will never be caught at not doing something you did not do to begin with.

  • notap

    The legal profession is a plague upon society as long as judges are selected from that profession. What is needed is that no candidate for a judgeship be allowed to have ever been a member of the legal profession. That won’t guarantee common sense or honesty, but it will at least give reason a chance against the idiocy of this criminal profession.