Employers who end up losing discrimination lawsuits don’t just pay their own legal fees—they often pay the winning side’s fees, too. And if the litigation has been ongoing, spanning several years and going up and down on appeal, that can mean paying thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees.
Always consider the ultimate cost before rejecting a settlement offer, or before pushing your own attorneys to appeal a case.
Recent case: Elgie Abner and several other railroad employees sued their employer for race discrimination. They started out representing themselves, but then hired attorneys to help. The case went to trial, but the jury failed to reach a verdict.
So Abner and his co-workers started over. A second jury sided with them and ordered the railroad to pay punitive damages.
Abner’s attorneys then asked for attorneys’ fees to cover the time and work they had put into both trials. The court said they were due almost $450,000. The employer appealed, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said the attorneys deserved to be compensated for both trials, even if the first trial was a draw and not a win. (Abner, et al., v. Kansas City Southern Railway, No. 07-30674, 5th Cir., 2008)
Final note: If you’d like to settle but don’t want to encourage other lawsuits, ask your attorneys to negotiate a confidential settlement.