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Federal appeals court runs out of patience, cracks down on frivolous litigation

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The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Florida employers, has started cracking down on employees who file false and frivolous claims. It’s losing patience for the attorneys who represent them, too. That may mean fewer such cases in the near future.

Recent case: Floride Norelus, an undocumented Haitian immigrant, claimed that for more than a year, she was regularly raped, abused and terrorized by two managers at the Denny’s restaurant where she worked. She had gotten the job by using a relative’s legitimate identification information.

She found a law firm willing to believe her claims and represent her.

The litigation quickly grew out of control. Co-workers testified that the incidents Norelus described could not have happened while they were at work. And Norelus repeatedly changed her testimony—once even confessing that she had lied and didn’t think there was anything wrong that.

Still, her attorneys persisted in pushing the case. The restaurant’s attorneys then asked the court to sanction the other side.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals did just that, after concluding that a witness can certainly make innocent mistakes while testifying a few times. But in this case, Norelus claimed over 800 such mistakes. (Norelus, et al., v. Denny’s, et al., No. 07-14077, 11th Cir., 2010)

Final note: Never ignore employee complaints. However, stick to your guns if co-workers say nothing happened. Settling a case like this would only encourage more outrageous claims.

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