Court to lawyers: No, you can’t just copy an old lawsuit and expect to win

In a case that shows there is justice for employers, a federal court has dismissed a discrimination complaint because the employee’s attorney literally copied the allegations from another case in another state against a different employer.

Recent case: Rosalind Brown, who is black, sued her former employer, Ameriprise Financial Services, on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated black employees. The complaint was long and included impressive details such as claims the company had specific written guidelines that permitted pay disparities. She also included allegations that the higher up in the organization employees rose, the greater the disparity between black employees’ pay and that of white employees.

When Ameriprise began investigating the complaints, staffers became puzzled because it had none of the specific rules alleged in Brown’s lawsuit. Nor did its own internal analysis show widening pay gaps between racial groups.

Ameriprise attorneys grew suspicious during Brown’s deposition, when she couldn’t back up many of the allegations about widespread discrimination in salaries.

It turned out that the complaint was—word for word—exactly like one that had been filed against Coca-Cola a decade earlier and which had been dismissed.

Ameriprise asked the court to throw out the case. The court agreed, calling the copying equivalent to lying to the court. It’s fine for lawyers to seek legal inspiration in other lawsuits, but they can’t just copy them. (Brown v. Ameriprise, No. 09-2413, DC MN, 2011)