Court Rules Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Entitled to More Than Just Contingency Fee After Jury Awards Nominal Damages

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Suppose you just defended against a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by two former female employees. The jury found that discrimination and harassment had occurred. But the jury awarded one employee only $1600 in economic damages and nothing for emotional distress. For the other employee, the jury did not award any damages.

Most employers would take that result in a heartbeat after jury trial.

Are the employees’ attorneys entitled to attorneys fees? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is “yes”; an award of attorneys fees traditionally goes along with a finding of discrimination.

But how much? In one case, counsel for the employees sought fees around $160,000 (or about 100 times the actual award of damages). The trial court disagreed and relied on the one-third contingency provision in the engagement agreement between counsel and the plaintiffs. $533 if you’re playing at home.

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