What Does it Mean to “Prevail” in a Discrimination Suit?

06/14/2015 // Dallas, Texas, United States // Attorney Keith Clouse // Keith Clouse // (press release)

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently interpreted a Texas statute concerning what it means to “prevail” in a Texas age discrimination lawsuit. Peterson v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., No. 14-10249 (June 4, 2015, available at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/14/14-10249-CV0.pdf). Dallas employment lawyer Keith Clouse explains.

The jury found that the employer was motivated to make its termination decision because of the plaintiff’s age, but that he would have been fired anyway. In arguing that he should receive attorneys’ fees, the plaintiff claimed that the applicable attorneys’ fees provision is predicated on whether a plaintiff proves a violation of the discrimination provision; a plaintiff could ultimately lose on his claims but could still recover attorneys’ fees if he proves a discriminatory act occurred. The Court disagreed. Reading that section in the context of the statutory chapter makes it clear that a court may order attorneys’ fees only to prevailing parties. The Texas Supreme Court has interpreted the attorneys’ fees provision to require that a party recover some actual relief (such as monetary damages) rather than simply prevail on a single jury question. Because the plaintiff in the case at hand did not prevail on an ultimate issue, the Court concluded that he was not entitled to attorneys’ fees.

This article is presented by the Dallas employment attorneys at Clouse Dunn LLP. To speak to an employment law attorney, send an email to [email protected] or call (214) 239-2705.


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