NJ Woman Awarded $20.5 Million in Discrimination Lawsuit Demands $1.6 Million in Legal Fees

NJ Woman Awarded $20.5 Million in Discrimination Lawsuit Demands $1.6 Million in Legal Fees

WILLIAMSPORT— The New Jersey woman awarded $20.5 million by a federal jury after proving she was willfully discriminated against while working in State College is demanding more than $1.6 million in legal charges.

Patricia Holmes, in a petition filed Wednesday in the US Middle District Court, states that she litigated the issue for three years “in her pursuit of justice.” On April 10, a jury declared Holmes, who is Black, entitled to $500,000 in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive penalties in her lawsuit against American HomePatient, a Lincare subsidiary. Jurors determined that Holmes was subjected to a hostile work environment in violation of federal law while working for the firm that offers home medical care services.

They said on the verdict form that their decision was based on the behavior of center manager Timothy McCoy and coworker Beverly Hibbert.

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Jurors in the civil rights case found:

  • American HomePatient failed to exercise reasonable care in preventing or correcting workplace racial harassment.
  • Its acts toward Holmes were malicious or exhibited reckless disregard for her legally protected rights.
  • It had not made a good faith effort to comply with the federal law barring racial discrimination.

According to the court filing, Holmes’ contingent fee contract with the Pittsburgh law firm Bordas and Bordas provided for a 40% attorney fee plus cost reimbursement. It indicates that legal fees were $314,881, but Holmes wants American HomePatient to pay five times that amount, or $1,638,893. The total legal costs demanded is $16,180.

Her attorney, Thomas B. Anderson, stated that proving responsibility, malice, reckless indifference, and reducing the issues for jury presentation needed many hours of investigation, research, briefing, and painstaking trial preparation.

He stated that Holmes lacked the wherewithal to pay attorney’s fees and litigation costs in a case where the defendant was a huge national firm. Holmes maintains in his argument for the augmentation that the extraordinary outcome in the case was due to the counsel’s superior performance and investment of resources, rather than the defense counsel’s weaker performance.

According to the complaint, on March 22, American HomePatient/Lincare offered to settle the case for $450,000, including legal charges.

Holmes worked as a customer service representative at the firm’s State College location from October 2019 until her resignation on July 14, 2020, which she described as a constructive discharge. The evidence at trial established that Holmes, the sole Black employee at the center, was subjected to behavior that included the use of the N-word, references to the Ku Klux Klan, and the slur “cookie.”

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She lived in Pennsylvania at the time, but now calls New Brunswick home.

American HomePatient previously stated that it strongly disagrees with the verdict, particularly with the award and amount of punitive damages, which is a multiple of 40 times compensatory damages. It claims that such an award violates the 14th Amendment. It states that federal courts have ruled that in most cases, the multiple for punitive damages should be in the single digits.

It said it will seek all available post-trial and appellate options.

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