LAWSUIT COSTS COUNTY $10.6 MILLION- Why We Like the Appellate Process
After our clients’ win their jury trials, the other side has the legal right to appeal one or more of the legal issues. We see this happen in almost all of our big cases. While the losing party’s appeal will temporarily delay our clients’ right to recover for their harm and damages, in the long run it’s OK. Here’s why…
In 2007, a jury found that social workers for the County of Orange had lied to take away a woman’s daughters. Because of this, the jury rendered a verdict against the county for $4.9 million. Rather than respect the jury’s decision, the county appealed.
As is the case with about 80-90% of all appeals, this was a bad idea. In this particular case the $4.9 million dollar judgment started to earn interest from the date the appeal was filed by the county. Attorney fees associated with the appeal, on both sides, were also added to the additional financial exposure the county decided to undertake by not immediately paying the original judgment.
In the County of Orange’s case, the appeals process took the case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. As most of us expected, the Court declined to hear the appeal and the jury verdict was finally affirmed.
Today the Orange County Register reported that the original $4.9 million dollar judgment had grown with interest and attorney fees. The county’s delay ended up costing our local taxpayers and insurance companies for the county a total of $10.6 million dollars.
The County of Orange wrote to the plaintiff and her attorney the above check (posted at OC Register website) back in May of 2011. Note that the additional expense making up the total payout of $10.6 million is related to fees paid to the county’s lawyers for recommending and then prosecuting the appeal. Ridiculous when you think about how quickly and easily this case could and should have been resolved 4 years ago.
When our clients’ cases are appealed, we remind our clients to be patient. Interest is being incurred each day and any additional attorney fees will eventually be reimbursed after the appeal is denied or otherwise rejected. Along the same lines, we sometimes wonder if defense attorneys take the time to share the “long shot” upside of an appeal with their clients and, clearly set forth the very real increased downside financial exposure. For many reasons, we doubt it.
The plaintiff’s attorney in the Orange County case, Shawn McMillan, say’s it best. “In my view, the taxpayers in Orange County should be pissed. This should never have gone this far.”