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Attorneys’ Fee Award In Roanoke Harassment Case Exceeds Damages

Published by on August 11, 2008

In an update to our earlier post on a sexual harassment jury verdict against the sheriff’s department in Roanoke (here), Roanoke.com is reporting that the U.S. Magistrate Judge assigned to the case has entered an order awarding over $211,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs to the plaintiff’s attorneys. Although the attorneys’ fees awarded are less […]

In an update to our earlier post on a sexual harassment jury verdict against the sheriff’s department in Roanoke (here), Roanoke.com is reporting that the U.S. Magistrate Judge assigned to the case has entered an order awarding over $211,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs to the plaintiff’s attorneys.

Although the attorneys’ fees awarded are less than the $325,000 originally awarded by the jury, the court in the interim had reduced the jury award to $150,000.  Thus, the plaintiff’s attorneys stand to recover more than their client in this case.

This outcome is a stark example of how the fee-shifting provisions of the civil rights laws work.  Under federal law, the prevailing party in a civil rights case is entitled to recover his or her attorneys’ fees and court costs.  (As an aside, case interpretations of the statute have made it almost impossible for an employer/defendant to recover attorneys’ fees if they prevail.)  Here, the plaintiff’s attorneys sought over $300,000 for attorneys’ fees and court costs.  Rest assured that the defendants spent a comparable amount to defend the case.

The defendants have appealed the verdict to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  If the jury verdict holds up on appeal, expect a substantial portion of the attorneys’ fee award to stand as well.  If the plaintiff ultimately prevails, the case will have cost the defendants approximately $650,000.  Food for thought.

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