- What’s the difference between a trial lawyer and a litigator?
Trial lawyers think about cases in a fundamentally different way than litigators. Trial lawyers plan on every case going to trial and prepare accordingly. We start cases by thinking about our closing argument at trial – the last words that we want the jury to hear. And we work backwards from there – figuring out what evidence we’ll need in order to make that closing argument and, in turn, what discovery strategy we’ll need in order to have that evidence at trial. Trial lawyers understand that defendants will not pay top dollar to settle cases until and unless we convince them – beyond any doubt – that we’re going to beat them at trial.
Litigators think about cases in chronological order – they start with initial pleadings, then move to discovery, then motions, and then, finally, they start to think about trial. That’s way too late. You’ve already lost if the first time your lawyers think about trial is right before trial. Here’s an article that elaborates on the difference between trial lawyers and litigators.
- How do I know that you are actually trial lawyers?
- What kind of fee arrangements do you have?
We’re creative and we love making arrangements that tie our pay to success. If you want a straight hourly agreement, we can do it. But we prefer contingency or blended fee (either flat fee and contingency or hourly and contingency) agreements.
Employment & Civil Rights
1. How long do I have to file a claim of employment discrimination?
You must act quickly to protect your rights for employment claims. In Minnesota, you only have one year to bring any claim for employment discrimination or you lose your right to sue forever. For some claims – even in Minnesota – you may have less than a year. In some states outside of Minnesota, you must bring employment claims within 180 days of the unlawful act. The bottom line is that you must act quickly to preserve your rights in cases of employment discrimination. If you believe that you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, contact Madia Law immediately.
2. Can my employer fire me if I bring a claim of discrimination?
No. Both state and federal law prohibit retaliation of any kind by employers against employees for bringing or participating in equal employment opportunity claims. If your employer takes any action against you because of your claim, then your employer will be subject to additional state and federal retaliation and reprisal claims.
3. What role do the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Minnesota Department of Human rights play in eliminating employment discrimination?
The most important thing to remember is that – in order to even bring a discrimination claim in federal court – you must first file with the EEOC and give it a chance to investigate. This can sometimes be a very good thing, as the EEOC forces employers to respond to complaints, and that gives us a preview of what defenses employers may try to use later in litigation. Sometimes, the EEOC or MDHR may even choose to litigate cases on behalf of plaintiffs and obtain money damages and injunctive relief.
4. What laws protect me from police brutality and excessive force?
42 U.S.C. 1983 serves as the main statutory authority that allows citizens to sue state and municipal law enforcement officers and agencies for conduct that violates their civil rights. The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution prevent unreasonable searches and seizures by the state and guarantee “due process” of law to all citizens. These statutory and constitutional authorities form the legal foundation of most excessive force cases against law enforcement.
5. What if I can’t afford a lawyer?
The employment discrimination and civil rights statutes authorize your attorney fees to be paid by your employer if you are successful in your case. The reason for these attorney fee provisions is to encourage individuals who have had their rights violated to step forward regardless of their personal wealth or ability to pay fees. Madia Law takes cases on contingency fee, meaning that it only collects fees if its successful in your case – you will not need to pay any hourly fees.
6. I need a lawyer in Minnesota/Wisconsin.
Madia Law represents businesses and individuals in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and United States Federal Court.
FINRA Arbitration and Securities Litigation
- How does FINRA arbitration differ from normal civil litigation?
Most securities claims are subject to mandatory arbitration. On the plus side, the process will go much faster than civil litigation – without lengthy appeals. Discovery is also limited and streamlined, which helps move the process along. On the minus side, your case will not be decided by a jury from our community, but rather a panel of 3 arbitrators – all of whom will have some ties or background in the financial industry. While arbitration has rules, they are not as strict as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (in court), so both sides will have more leeway and discretion in the presentation of their cases.
- How will having a trial lawyer handle my case help me if my claim is subject to mandatory arbitration?
Because the skill set is the same: taking a complex set of facts and distilling it into a compelling and persuasive narrative for a finder of fact. We think of the arbitration panel as just one more jury – albeit with its own set of unique backgrounds, biases, and preferences. We build the case accordingly.
- Why should I hire your firm instead of a larger one?
Because we can get you a better result at a better price. With a trial focus, we build our case from Day 1 with an eye towards what will persuade a jury. We’re not going to waste our time or your money on petty discovery disputes over thousands of meaningless documents. Most of our biggest trial verdicts and best results have come against the largest firms in Minnesota. We routinely go up against them and beat them – not because they’re bad lawyers, but rather because their business model makes them spend endless hours billing you on things that will not matter to a jury. We’re a different kind of firm with a very different philosophy.
- What are some examples of business disputes?
Partnership disputes, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, trademark infringement or other intellectual property disputes, unfair competition or other anti-competitive behavior, property damage – you name it. Business litigation basically encompasses most types of legal disputes involving one or more companies.
- Will your firm work with my company on alternative type fee arrangements?
Yes. We love to work contingency, flat-fee, or blended arrangements that tie fees to success.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
- The value of your case depends on a number of things.
The value of your case – either at settlement or trial – depends on a number of things, including: the strength of your case on the merits; the amount of damages you’ve suffered; whether the defendant has the capacity to pay a large amount of damages; and your tolerance for risk.
- How much your case is worth depends in part on the strength of your case on the merits.
In employment and civil rights cases, defendants almost always bring a motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment is basically like a motion to dismiss your case – except that it comes after discovery instead of at the beginning of the case. The defendants basically argue to the Court that – even if all the documents and deposition testimony are taken in the light most favorable to you – no jury could find in your favor as a matter of law and therefore the judge should dismiss your case and not even give you a trial. Unfortunately, many of these motions are granted – so defendants bring them in almost every case. At Madia Law, we’ve had a solid record on beating these motions, because we pride ourselves on doing solid discovery: on getting the admissions we need from defendants during discovery so that judges have no choice but to deny the defense motions for summary judgment. One of the things we analyze during our free consultation with you is the likelihood of your case beating summary judgment. We’ll sit down with you and go over the evidence that we believe is likely to come in: your testimony, documents or other evidence, testimony of other witnesses, and what evidence we think the defense will offer. We’ll analyze that against relevant caselaw and tell you what we think the likelihood is that your case will survive summary judgment. If your case is likely to survive summary judgment, then its settlement value goes up tremendously. We make sure the defendant knows that it will have to go all the way through discovery only to lose its motion for summary judgment and have to face a jury trial. Our experience has been that defendants don’t like to face juries, and they really don’t like to face juries against us. So a defendant may pay a premium very early in your case to settle it, in order to avoid having to litigate (and pay legal fees) all the way through summary judgment, only to lose at summary judgment and then have to pay you a larger amount in order to avoid trial.
- How much your case is worth depends in part on the damages you’ve suffered.
In an employment wrongful termination case, you’re entitled to: back pay damages, front pay damages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, statutory interest, and your attorney fees and costs. Back pay is the amount of pay you’ve lost from the time of your termination to present. So, if you were making $40,000 a year plus benefits before you were wrongfully terminated, and you’ve been out of work for a year, then you’ve got $40,000 in back pay damages. Front pay damages is the amount of money you’re projected to lose going into the future. These are harder to win than back pay damages, because courts expect you to try to find work and mitigate your damages. Generally, you can only get 1-3 years’ worth of front pay damages, except in exceptional cases. For both back and front pay damages, you need to show that you’ve attempted to mitigate damages by finding another job. So, keep records of your job search so that the defense can’t claim that you just sat on your hands after its unlawful termination of you. Sometimes, things that are good for your life are not good for your lawsuit. You may find another job very shortly after your wrongful termination that actually pays you more money than your first job. In that case, your wage loss damages would be limited to the time between jobs, and you wouldn’t get any front pay because you’re making more money. So the value of your case would decrease, but obviously, it’s much better for your life. Emotional distress damages are available and increase the value of your case. Being discriminated against by a company is awful, and companies have to pay for that. Both federal and Minnesota anti-discrimination statutes also authorize punitive damages for unlawful discrimination. The threat of these damages also adds value to your case. Finally, a hammer to add value to your case is the threat of attorney fees. The anti-discrimination statutes and civil rights acts are fee-shifting statutes, meaning that – if you go to trial and win, the defendant has to pay all of your attorney fees in addition the jury verdict for you. Attorneys will generally put hundreds of hours into your case to get it to trial, and hundreds more to try the case, resulting in fees to defendants of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Often, defendants would rather settle with you than risk having to pay your fees on top of everything else. So, in valuing your case and trying to figure out how much your case is worth, one thing to think about is the amount of damages that you’ve suffered.
- How much your case is worth depends on the ability of the defendant to pay a large judgment.
Some individuals or small companies just don’t have the money to pay a judgment. This reduces the value of your case. The defendant has the advantage of challenging you to go ahead and get a verdict as trial, as it doesn’t have assets sufficient for you to satisfy a judgment. That gives a defendant some leverage in settlement negotiations. In our initial free consultation with you, we’ll discuss the defendant company and whether it makes sense to sue it. Generally, collectability is not a concern and is a non-issue for most mid-size to larger companies. Even with smaller companies, it may not be an issue, but it’s definitely a factor to consider as we discuss how much your case is worth.
- One of the most important factors in the value of your case is your tolerance for risk.
With many things in life, the greater the potential risk, the greater the potential reward. Lawsuits are not different. There is greater risk in litigating a case through discovery and summary judgment, as there is always a risk that the judge will dismiss your case, no matter how strong it is. However, the value of your case after summary judgment is usually about 10 times or more what it was at the very beginning of the case. The value increases because the defendant has taken their best shot to dismiss it and lost, and now faces a jury trial (which means a lot of risk to the defendant that they are willing to pay to avoid). You’re being compensated for the risk and time you had to endure the lawsuit by a case that’s now worth 10 x or more what it was when you started. And – if you keep going – there’s more potential risk and reward. Trial presents another risk. The jury could go with the defendant and award you nothing, in which case you’ll go home with zero. However, on the other hand, the jury could ring the bell on the defendant and award you $1.3 million at trial. Again, you’re compensated for the increased risk by the potential of a large jury award far beyond anything defendants would offer at settlement. Some people have a low tolerance for risk. They would rather take a sure thing and settle their case very early, even if they have to settle for less than what we think we could get after summary judgment or trial. On the other end of the spectrum, we have some clients that have a very high tolerance for risk – they want to go all the way through trial and take their chances, no matter what the defense offers at settlement. Most of our clients fall somewhere in between on the risk spectrum. They’re willing to endure some risk to push forward with the case if the defendant will not offer a fair amount, but at the same time are willing to engage in settlement negotiations once the defendant starts making fair offers. When we talk at your free consultation about how much your case is worth, one thing we’ll need to discuss is your tolerance for risk.
- Madia Law offers free consultations to talk about the value of your case.
Call one of our trial lawyers today to talk about your case. We’ll talk about the above factors to give you our opinion on the potential value of your case.