Pattakos Law Firm argues in Ohio Supreme Court over scope of attorneys’ fees available when granted as part of punitive damages award

This morning, attorney Peter Pattakos presented oral argument in the Supreme Court of Ohio in Christina Cruz, et al. v. English Nanny & Governess School, et al. , Case no. 2020-1247.

Pattakos filed this lawsuit on behalf of the Plaintiffs in November of 2011, alleging that the owners of a local nanny training school and placement service took steps to (1) suppress a report that one of their clients was sexually abusing his young daughter, and then (2) retaliated against the nanny (Plaintiff Cruz) who witnessed the abuse while she was on a three-day placement interview with the family.

Throughout four years of extremely contentious litigation, including nearly two-dozen depositions, thousands of documents produced, and extensive expert testimony on both sides, the defendants repeatedly and summarily rejected the Plaintiffs repeated overtures to reach a reasonable settlement, and insisted they wanted a trial to clear their names. The parties thus proceeded to have a 26-day trial in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas before retired Judge Burt Griffin, after which the jury (1) found defendants liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress (which requires a showing of “extreme and outrageous conduct that is “intolerable in a civilized community”), and wrongful discharge in violation of Ohio’s public policy of preventing child abuse; and (2) awarded Plaintiffs—Cruz, and Heidi Kaiser, an employee of the placement service who was similarly retaliated against for resisting Defendants’ effort to suppress the nanny’s report—$170,000 in compensatory damages, more than $220,000 in punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees in an amount to be determined by the trial court per well established Ohio law.

After extensive post-verdict proceedings in the trial court, and two separate appeals in the Eighth District, involving nine assignments of error in total, the question that was argued before the Supreme Court is whether, when a jury finds that a plaintiff should be compensated for their attorneys fees as part of a punitive damages award, it is within the trial court’s discretion to award fees for post-verdict work (i.e., the entire case) in addition to fees for pre-verdict work (only part of the case). It is our position that the answer to this question must be “yes,” for reasons that are amply demonstrated by the decade-long-and-counting history of this case.

More details are available at the Court’s docket which includes the pending briefs—including an amicus brief filed on our clients’ behalf by the Ohio Association for Justice, the Ohio Employment Lawyers’ Association, and the Cleveland Academy of Trial Lawyers; and also in the case preview posted by the Court’s Office of Public Information.

A recording of the oral argument is available here.