August 28, 2012

Seagate IV – the Final Chapter?

Posted in Fraud and Misrepresentation, Hiring and Recruiting, Minnesota Statute 181.64, Minnesota Statute 181.65 tagged , , , , , at 5:28 pm by Tom Jacobson

Chandramouli Vaidyanathan’s $2.4 million award for damages and attorney’s fees has been thrown out.

As you may recall, Vaidyanathan was awarded $1.9 million in damages and another half million in attorney’s fees after a Minnesota jury found that his former employer, Bloomington-based Seagate US, LLC, misrepresented the job for which he was recruited. For more details on the case, see my previous articles, Bloomington-based Seagate Hit with $1.9m Verdict for Misrepresenting Job to Recruit, Seagate’s Liability to Duped Recruit Jumps to $2.4 Million, and Seagate III – the Saga Continues.

Seagate appealed the case, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed the trial court outcome. The appellate court’s decision was based on its conclusion that the trial court had improperly instructed the jury about what it takes to prove misrepresentation under the applicable statute, Minnesota Statute § 181.64. Specifically, the court ruled that “The jury should have been instructed that it could hold Seagate liable if Seagate knew that its representations were false.” Because the jury was not properly instructed, the court threw out the verdict and the attorney’s fee award as well.

But this may not be the end of the story, for the court also ordered a new trial. Stay tuned.

What you need to know: By requiring proof of actual knowledge, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has raised the bar for employees who want to prove misrepresentation under Minnesota Statute § 181.64.

For more information about this article, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2012 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

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June 1, 2011

Seagate III – the saga continues

Posted in Attorney's Fees, Fraud and Misrepresentation, Hiring and Recruiting, Minnesota Statute 181.64, Minnesota Statute 181.65 tagged , at 6:41 pm by Tom Jacobson

Chandramouli Vaidyanathan’s lawsuit against Seagate Technologies continues to wind its way through the court system – at even greater cost to Seagate.  First, a jury awarded Vaidyanathan nearly $2 million after they determined that Seagate had misled him about the job they hired him to do (see  Bloomington-based Seagate Hit with $1.9m Verdict for Misrepresenting Job to Recruit).

After the jury’s award, both sides brought various post-trial motions.  The presiding judge, the Hon. Donovan Frank, upheld the jury’s verdict, and he awarded Vaidyanathan another $517,352.50 for attorney’s fees and court costs (see Seagate’s Liability to Duped Recruit Jumps to $2.4 Million).

After that award, Vaidyanathan brought another motion seeking an additional $97,655.00 in attorney’s fees incurred after the judgment was entered and through the previous post trial motions.  Judge Frank has now granted Vaidyanathan’s request, but he reduced the fee award to $63,733.75 after finding that the fees sought were “excessive in light of the tasks accomplished.”

Stay tuned.  Seagate IV may just be an appeal waiting to be filed.

For more information about this article, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

April 5, 2011

Seagate’s liability to duped recruit jumps to $2.4 million

Posted in Application Process, Attorney's Fees, Fraud and Misrepresentation, Hiring and Recruiting, Job Descriptions, Minnesota Statute 181.64, Minnesota Statute 181.65 tagged , , , , at 7:42 pm by Tom Jacobson

Last December, I posted an article about how Minnesota’s Seagate Technologies was socked with a $1.9 million jury verdict for misrepresenting a job to a recruit the company hired (see Bloomington-based Seagate hit with $1.9M verdict for misrepresenting job to recruit).  Not surprisingly, lawyers for both sides filed post-trial motions after the verdict was delivered.  Seagate recently lost both motions, and one of them added over a half million dollars to the recruit’s judgment.

In the first post-trial motion, Seagate challenged the outcome of the trial.  Seagate argued that the evidence was not sufficient to support the jury’s verdict and that the company should get a new trial.  In the alternative, Seagate argued that the verdict was excessive and should be reduced.  The federal district court judge who presided over the case, the Hon. Donovan Frank, rejected all of Seagate’s arguments and allowed the verdict to stand (Vaidyanathan v. Seagate US, LLC, http://bit.ly/hMptiM).

At the same time, Vaidyanathan asked the court to award him the attorney’s fees he incurred while litigating against Seagate.  Vaidyanathan’s argument was based on a seldom-used Minnesota statute, Section 181.65 (http://bit.ly/foPuhF), which allows the recovery of fees in cases such as his.  After considering the issues in the case, the amount of time spent by Vaidyanathan’s attorneys on the case (nearly 2050 hours), and the rates charged by his attorneys (ranging from $50.00 per hour for a law clerk to $495.00 per hour for the lead attorney), Judge Frank awarded Vaidyanathan an additional $517,352.50 for his attorney’s fees (see Vaidyanathan v. Seagate US, LLC, http://bit.ly/dS6K9t).  This brings Seagate’s liability to Vaidyanathan to more than $2.4 million.  If Seagate’s own attorney’s fees were roughly the same as Vaidyanathan’s, the company’s overall cost in this case could be approaching $3.0 million.

The case emphasizes the high cost of employment-related litigation, for there are many laws which allow successful employee-plaintiffs to recover their attorney’s fees in addition to their other damages.  Depending on the legal basis for an employee’s claims, those damages can include lost past and future wages and a myriad of other items.  And, employers are rarely awarded their attorney’s fees when they win.  To minimize the risk of getting involved in such high-stakes litigation, employers should regularly consult with legal counsel regarding their employment practices.

For more information about this article, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

December 22, 2010

Bloomington-based Seagate hit with $1.9M verdict for misrepresenting job to recruit

Posted in Fraud and Misrepresentation, Hiring and Recruiting, Interviewing, Job Descriptions, Minnesota Statute 181.64 tagged , , , , at 10:45 am by Tom Jacobson

 

 

When Chandramouli Vaidyanathan accepted a job with Bloomington, MN-based Seagate Technologies, he thought he would be leading the company’s yield engineering team. The job was not what Vaidyanathan expected, so after he was transferred to a different position within the company and later dismissed along with 100 other employees during a lay-off, he sued Seagate. On November 18, 2010 a jury awarded Vaidyanathan $1.9 million.

One of Vaidyanathan’s legal theories was that Seagate had violated section 181.64 of the Minnesota Statutes (http://bit.ly/gzdFuI). This law makes it unlawful for a Minnesota employer to knowingly make false representations to induce a job recruit to relocate to accept a job offer. Employers who violate this law can be ordered to pay the employee’s damages and attorneys’ fees.

A violation of this law is also a misdemeanor, so an employer who breaks this law could be punished with a fine of up to $1,000.00 and/or ninety days in jail.

In Vaidyanathan’s case, the evidence established that Seagate made a clear and definite promise to Vaidyanathan that his job would be to lead the company’s yield engineering team. According to the Court, Seagate’s promise was, however, “made, in part, out of ignorance and a lack of sufficient information,” and Vaidyanathan testified that he never did any yield engineering work for Seagate.

After a seven-day trial, the jury concluded that Seagate knowingly made false representations to Vaidyanathan about the kind and character of his work and that Seagate’s misrepresentation induced him to take the job and move to Minnesota from Texas. The jury then awarded Vaidyanathan, whose starting salary had been $126,048.00, $1.9 million in damages. The jury’s Special Verdict can be read at http://bit.ly/grjREY.

Claims under Section 181.64 are rarely litigated, and when they are, they are often dismissed. Nevertheless, Vaidyanathan’s case stands as a vivid reminder of the importance of accurately describing a job to recruits.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

 

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