When a Domino’s Pizza worker sued for wage violations, it quickly became clear that a few thousand dollars was the most he was owed. His attorney wanted to settle, but Domino’s insisted on a three-day trial. It lost and the employee was awarded $1,000 in back pay, plus $4,000 in punitive damages, doubled for a total of $10,000. Domino’s appealed and lost. The employee’s attorney demanded his fee, which he claimed was worth more than $100,000.
The court said that because Domino’s persisted in demanding a trial and appeal, it had only itself to blame. (Johnson v. GDF, Inc., 7th Cir.)
The lesson: If a case is pretty clear and the potential liability small, just pony up the settlement money. Otherwise, a court may punish bullheadedness with a large award for attorneys’ fees.