Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Federal Regulators Must Pay Legal Costs After Dismissal of Claim

Innocent defendants should use this case as a guide to deterring the federal government.

""The EEOC has presented the court with anecdotal evidence to show that some members of CRST's management occasionally violated CRST's anti-sexual harassment policy by failing to respond appropriately to sexual harassment in the workplace," wrote the judge in April. "However, the EEOC has not compiled the failings of CRST's managers in any meaningful way to show that CRST has a pattern or practice of tolerating sexual harassment in its workplace."

That was a "big finding," said Mathias. "Once the pattern and practice allegation was gone, you had 200 or so claims with nothing in common, no unifying characteristic."

The EEOC's argument, said Reade, "boils down to little more than bald assertions." The EEOC's litigation strategy, she added, "was untenable: CRST faced a continuously moving target of allegedly aggrieved persons, the risk of never-ending discovery and indefinite continuance of trial."

In an order last August, Reade dismissed the remaining claims of 67 women after finding the agency had "wholly abandoned its statutory duties" towards them by not conducting any investigation of their allegations.

In the fee application, Jenner said its attorneys and staff billed a total of 18,005.75 hours on the case and sought $7,121,569.25 at rates ranging from $151 to $825 per hour for this work. Simmons attorneys and support staff billed a total of 2,507.66 hours at rates ranging from $95 to $295 per hour and sought a total of $502,977.02 for their work.

Reade on Feb. 9 said several factors warranted a large award: The company's counsel successfully obtained a dismissal of the entire case; the case involved hundreds of allegedly aggrieved individuals and there was potentially massive liability to CRST.

She awarded the amount requested by Simmons for its work, but reduced Jenner's request to $3,501,394.63 after comparing the firm's rates to market rates prevailing in the local community. She also awarded reasonable out-of-pocket expenses totaling $463,071.25. In an earlier order, the court had granted CRST $92, 842.21 in costs."

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