The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Paralegal Christine Sahyers sued her former employer Prugh, Holliday and Karatinos, a Tampa, Florida civil injury firm, for alleged unpaid overtime under the FLSA. She instructed her counsel to file suit in the Florida Middle Federal District Court, without any notice, demand or prior claim of unpaid wages to defendants, which is technically not required under the local rules, but seriously frowned upon by those who have the power to supervise attorney conduct, i.e. the federal courts.
While Ms. Sahyers accepted a $3,500.00 settlement (not bad considering the court found she provided no proof of lost wages) with no admission of liability on the part of her employer, her attorney received a resounding “no way” in response to his motion for $15,000.00 in attorney fees and costs (denied in district court and then appealed). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed in this particular case that a reasonable fee is “no fee” and reminded Ms. Sahyers’ attorney that good manners, even under litigious circumstances, are always the best way to go, stating, “We believe and defend the idea that maintaining a bar that promotes civility and collegiality is in the public interest and greatly advances judicial efficiency: better “to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding,” as Rule 1 demands. [Fed. R. Civ. P. 1]. See opinion in Christine Sahyers v. Prugh, Holliday & Karatinos: 08-10848.
What was the penalty for rudely failing to notify defendants of the pending claim for unpaid wages? – no award of attorney fees and costs to the “offending attorney.” However, the court did maintain polite discretion in not publishing the name of the attorney who engaged in the uncivil behavior. Reading between the lines of the opinion, while the court did not indicate that pre-suit notice of a complaint is a requirement to get an award of attorney fees in wage cases, this reminds me of the times that my grandmother dictated what good Southern manners require, simply by fixing an unyielding, piercing gaze on me to remind me to say “please”, “thank you” and “pardon me, but you still owe me a dollar for mowing the grass.”