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What Are My Chances of Winning?

What Are My Chances of Winning?

Often, my clients ask "What are our chances of winning?" or "What is my case
worth?" These kinds of questions always cause me to take a deep breath, because
the questions are often asked before I have all the facts, or before I learn
through discovery what the opponent's evidence may be. Still, I answer these
questions with a cautionary note, and state that while each case is unique, the
market value of cases is determined by verdicts and settlements in similar
cases. This issue of the Employment E-Journal summarizes some reported verdicts
and settlements in California employment law cases. These are NOT cases handled
by this office, but are reported in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a legal
newspaper, for cases resolved in the last 90 days. (May 1, 2006 - September 1, 2006)


Six Cases: 3 settlements and 3 verdicts, 2 for the Defense.

In an age discrimination case, the plaintiff EEOC(employee) settled for $35,000
against the City of San Jose. The 72 year old assistant heavy equipment
operator applied for promotion to full operator status. There were 3 positions
and 4 applicants, and the 72 year old received the lowest interview ranking, and
claimed the ranking was the result of discrimination. One of his supervisors,
according to the employee, stated he was concerned the old employee would die
during the graveyard shift.

In another case, the employer won a disability discrimination case tried in Los
Angeles Superior Court. After a 7 day trial, the jury deliberated 2 hours to
conclude the L.A. Unified School District had not failed to accommodate a
janitor's lupus condition by timely determining the need for assistance, or for
failure to transfer her to new work.

A third case settled for $125,000. The Plaintiff was a L.A. Police Officer who
underwent hip surgery, and was released to perform light work duties only. The
Employer Department refused to allow him to return to work, stating no such
position was available. The employer claimed it offered other positions, but
the Officer wanted only undercover work, or other unavailable jobs.

In a fourth case, tried in Los Angeles Superior Court, the employee quit her job
after being denied promotion, claiming that her Hispanic supervisor denied her
the promotion because she was white and female. She claimed less deserving male
or non-white applicants were promoted over her. The employer City of L.A. used
an expert to testify that the employee's perception of discrimination was the
result of a psychological disorder. The employee sought over a million dollars,
and after a 22 day trial, and 7 hours of deliberation, the jury found for the
defendant City.

In San Mateo County Superior Court, a case settled for $9.2 million by
mediation. The employer, EmeryWorld Wide Airlines, was shut down for safety
violations by the FAA. The employee-Plaintiffs claimed they were forced to fly
unsafe planes over their protest. Emery did not resume business after the
shut-down, and laid off all its employees. The employees contended the decision
not to resume operations was in retaliation against the employee's protests
about safety issues. The employer contended the decision was made by
independent outside directors.

In the last of six cases, the Plaintiff won a $561,373 verdict in L.A. Superior
Court, Torrance, as damages for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. The
alleged victim, a male, was a mechanic, who states his co-workers daily
humiliated and offended him with sexually derogatory remarks, propositions for
sex, and sexual assault. He protested verbally, with no result or change, and
so placed a formal written complaint to the Human Resources office, who did not
take action. Three weeks later he was fired for reading a calendar of topless
models at work. He claimed the firing was in retaliation for his complaint of
sexual harassment.

Could you have predicted these outcomes based on these facts? Even experienced
judges and lawyers are uncomfortable assigning odds to a case when the variables
of personality, presentation, and credibility come into play.