Earlier this week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s decision to award the plaintiff’s attorney in Diaz v. Jiten Hotel Management, Inc. over $100,000 in fees and costs after she won a jury verdict of only $7,650 for her client in an age discrimination case. The plaintiff’s attorney incurred this relatively high amount of fees and costs, in part, because the case was appealed to the First Circuit three times.
Jiten Hotel Management’s attorneys argued that the First Circuit should reduce the amount of fees and costs that the trial court awarded to the plaintiff’s attorney because they were so much higher than the jury verdict she obtained for her client. The First Circuit rejected Jiten Hotel Management’s argument because the statute that entitles prevailing plaintiffs’ attorneys to compensation for their fees and costs was designed to encourage attorneys to pursue civil rights cases even if the plaintiff suffered relatively little harm. These “fee shifting” statutes ensure that civil rights laws are enforced. If defendants who violated civil rights laws did not have to pay the fees and costs that plaintiffs’ attorneys incurred, many plaintiffs’ attorneys could not afford to pursue civil rights cases and the civil rights laws would not be enforced. Thus, it makes sense for the court to award Diaz’s attorney with such a large award of fees and costs because if it didn’t, she may have never taken Diaz’s case and Jiten Hotel Management could have gotten away with discriminating against Diaz because of her age.