Megan C. Deluhery provided expert analysis in a Law360 article on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's ruling on attorneys' fees in Wage Act cases.
The SJC unanimously adopted the "catalyst test" in allowing plaintiffs to obtain attorneys' fees as part of favorable settlements under the Wage Act, which authorizes attorneys' fees to "prevailing" parties.
The catalyst test assesses whether a Wage Act lawsuit is the primary factor leading to a settlement.
"The catalyst test," the court wrote in its decision, "promotes the prompt settlement of meritorious cases, avoiding the need for protracted litigation, superfluous process, or unnecessary court involvement solely to 'prevail' in a formalistic sense to ensure an award of attorneys' fees and costs."
Ms. Deluhery told Law360 that the decision will encourage attorneys to take on smaller cases.
"This should make employers more willing to settle cases where the merits require it; more time is more legal fees. The longer you let a case go on where you think you don't have a good defense, you're just hurting yourself in the long run," she said.
On the other hand, plaintiffs should not overreach when asserting Wage Act claims, she noted, because superfluous or less certain claims can undercut the finding that they are a "prevailing" party, which is needed to secure attorneys' fees in a settlement.
Ms. Deluhery, a partner at Todd & Weld LLP, has a diverse litigation practice, including a concentration in employment litigation matters.