Recently, our employment lawyers addressed the cost for employers to defend employee’s lawsuits and cited to an insurance study, respected defense attorney John Hyman, and cases where fees were awarded. (Best Law Read: What Is The Cost To Defend An Employment Lawsuit?). In short, an employer should expect to spend $175,000 to $250,000 to defend a case all the way though a jury trial. Does spending that kind of money mean that the employer will win? Nope. And no good defense attorney will promise that either. At best, a defense attorney might make a Brian Fantana promise: “They’ve done studies, you know. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.” And so starts our Ron Burgundy-themed blog.
What is an example of a cost to defend an employment lawsuit?
Best Employment Lawyer Answer: The City of San Diego was sued by former Assistant City Attorney Marlea Dell’Anno, who claimed that she was fired in the middle of her career for refusing to bring criminal charges in two cases, one which was a political ploy by her boss and another where no crime had been committed. While it should go without saying, it is unlawful to fire an employee for refusing to engage in unlawful activities. The City of San Diego argued that they were justified in firing Dell’Anno because she allegedly mishandled several cases, including domestic violence cases – a contention that Dell’Anno vehemently denied. (Best Law Read: Employment Discrimination Question: What Is Pretext? ).
According to a report prepared by the City Attorney’s Office in September 2021, the City started its defense by paying $175,000 to the law firm Burke Williams Sorensen, which has 10 offices throughout California and houses about 100 attorneys. Apparently fearing that the case was not going very well, one of the partners assigned to the case, William Price, started threatening a witness to testify favorable to the City, at least according to a sworn affidavit. At that point, the City hired a new law firm, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, at a cost of an additional $250,000 to bring the case home through trial. Apparently, the City was impressed that the new law firm has many leather-bound books and smells of rich mahogany.
That did not go as planned. The jury sided with Dell’Anno, finding that she had been wrongfully fired. In doing so, the jury awarded $3.4 million to Dell’Anno for past and future economic losses (i.e., lost wages and benefits) as well as an additional $500,000 for non-economic losses (i.e., emotional distress, pain, and suffering). “Great Knights of Columbus, that hurt!”
So, the City paid about $425,000 for the privilege to lose $3.9 million at trial.
And that’s not the end of it. Dell’Anno is likely going to ask the trial court to award her the attorneys’ fees to pay her attorney; and pre- and post-judgment interest will likely be added as well. But there’s still more. The City has filed a motion to new trial blaming the judge for mishandling the trial – I’m quite sure that the same judge being accused will not agree with this argument. This means that the City’s tab keeps running.
While I have no direct knowledge of the settlement negotiations, I’m willing to bet that the City had the opportunity to settle this case for well under its $425,000 legal fees, at least enough to by a few rounds of scotch. “I love scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch.”
But seriously, the egotism of the City likely costs its taxpayers millions of dollars that certainly could have been spent better. And to that, I say, “Stay classy San Diego.”
How do I sue my employer?
Best Wrongful Termination Attorney Answer: If you have Googled “I need a lawyer because I was wrongfully fired today?”, “What is a wrongful termination case worth?”, or “my manager is harassing me because of my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our lawyers in Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Toledo and Cincinnati to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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