$ 3.5 Million Award for Wrongful Termination

In a recent article posted on The Employment Law Group Blog entitled: Federal Jury Awards Whistleblower $3.5 Million in Alaska Retaliation Case, is reported that a federal jury awarded Paul Blakeslee $3.5 million because of the illicit activity of his former employer. As it was proved, Shaw Environment & Infrastructure Inc fired Paul Blakeslee for reporting suspicious dealings by a manager of the company’s maintenance work on Alaskan military bases.

According to Mr. Blakeslee’s lawyers, the verdict included $2.5 million in punitive damages becoming so one of the largest judicial decisions in an employment case in Alaska history. It also may happen that after supplemental awards by the court, the final value of the verdict will pass $4 million.

Shaw Environment & Infrastructure Inc is a Louisiana-based contractor for the U.S. Army. The jury came to the conclusion that Shaw Environment & Infrastructure Inc fired Paul Blakeslee for reporting that the other manager was billing the Army at inflated rates for equipment leased from his own company. Shaw Environment & Infrastructure Inc stated the firing was independent, but the jury called it retaliation and said it violated the False Claims Act.

The question of discrimination was also raised in the court. As Mr. Blakeslee was 71 at the time he was fired, the jury accused Shaw Environment & Infrastructure Inc of age discrimination against Paul Blakeslee.

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Doing Business on a Handshake

In an interesting blog post by Max Kennerly, Esq., Doing Business on a Handshake, he details a recent case which involved his client being stripped of his ownership interest because he had no formal written contract.  Ultimately, the case was won by the client, and he was awarded $4.17 million in damages, however, he was seeking a larger $7 million verdict.

Upon the completion of the trial, Mr. Kennerly was able to discuss the verdict with the jurors, as per Pennsylvania law.  The vote had been 10-2 in favor of the client’s claims and Mr. Kennerly was interested in learning more about why the 2 were opposed to the verdict, which he determined was largely due to their young age and inexperience in the corporate world as they both felt that no one would enter into such an agreement without something in writing.  The older jurors seemed to think that indeed, sometimes business does work on merely a handshake.

In retrospect, I’m sure that the client in question would have taken the time to have his lawyer draft a formal agreement to enter into with the other owners, which would have saved him time, energy, lawyer’s fees and the hassle of a trial.  This is a great reminder from Mr. Kennerly of the importance of having a written, signed agreement before entering into a business relationship.