Friday, September 12, 2008, 11:36 AM

How's This for a Shocker?

A jarring message comes from Williams v. New Hope Foundation, a decision of the NC Court of Appeals. In a state law wage-hour case tried in Hertford County (Northeastern NC, north of Greenville), the jury awarded the plaintiff unpaid wages in the grand sum of $72.00, and the judge cut the plaintiff's attorneys' fee request by more than half - to $25,000.00, plus $2534.14 in costs. The costs-and-fees award was affirmed on appeal. A fee award is discretionary, but the appeals court said that the "obvious purpose" of the state statutory language (G.S. 95-22(d)) "is to provide relief for a person who has sustained damage in an amount so small that, if he must pay his attorney out of the recovery, he may well conclude that it is not economically feasible to bring suit on his claim. In such a situation the legislature apparently concluded that the defendant, though at fault, would have an unjustly superior bargaining power in settlement negotiations." Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

The jury accepted the defenses raised by the employer, and still gave the plaintiff a tiny consolation prize. So the employer, which sustained a mosquito bite from the jury, has the privilege of (a) paying the $75, (b) paying its attorney for defending the case through trial and on appeal, and (c) paying the plaintiff's attorney. New Hope Foundation is a home care agency in Aulander NC; a nearby community is known as "Poor Town." Need I say more?

Click here to read the case...


Blogger Texas Wage-Hour said...

That is shocking (assuming you are talking about the defense lawyer's failure to get the case settled prior to trial). I sure hope that defense lawyer notified his/her client of the downside to fighting and losing a wage case.

September 12, 2008 at 7:40 PM  

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