Update (December 7, 2012): Mayo tried unsuccessfully (so far (there’s always the possibility of appeal)) to escape liability after losing a jury trial by arguing they found still more evidence that Mayo claims shows Dr. Kademani to be a liar. Mayo argues that Dr. K was unable to get a job at Mass. General Hospital (“MGH”) on account of that, rather than because someone from Mayo “poisoned the well” for Kademani at MGH, as Dr. K alleged and as a jury appears to have agreed.
Mayo also tried and failed to hide how much its legal fees were as part of its adversary’s attempt to prove their own recoverable “reasonable” attorneys’ fees.
Original Post (August 2, 2012): Things went badly for Dr. Deepak Kademani in his work at the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Kademani left there, later to file suit alleging defamation, discrimination, breach of contract and other claims arising out of the circumstances of his work and his leaving his work.
A jury found in Dr. Kademani’s favor on the breach of contract claim against Mayo in a trial before U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.) earlier this year. The question of Dr. Kademani’s damages was put off for trial on another day and part of the damages will be plaintiff Dr. Kademani’s attorneys’ fees, which are presumably significant after a few years of civil litigation.
In Minnesota, it will be a jury and not the judge who will decide what attorneys’ fees should be awarded to Dr. Kademani.
The Minnesota Supreme Court held earlier this year that the issue of attorneys’ fees recoverable pursuant to contract is a determination for the jury as a matter for Minnesota constitutional law. The analysis of the Court in an opinion of Justice David R. Stras was textual and historical, rather than decided on the basis of “what makes the most sense” or “what is most practical.”
The availability of a constitutionally-guaranteed right to trial by jury does not and should not turn on the practical difficulties of its implementation.
Minnesota Litigator has from time to time noted “the Minnesota haircut” − when Minnesota courts sometimes seem predisposed to reduce claims for attorneys’ fees. It is probably a minority view among lawyers that juries might be as good or better than judges at assessing what are or should be legitimate or recoverable attorneys’ fees. On the other hand, given the extraordinary challenge of collecting useful data to analyze the question, we won’t know the truth any time soon.
We will probably all adopt the prevailing “intuition” that generally juries’ decisions are preferred by plaintiffs and disfavored by defendants. A win on liability and a jury on damages therefore probably gives the edge to Dr. Kademani in his on-going dispute with his old employer.