Case No. CGC 12 520719

It Pays to Play: Judge Finds Costs Still Recoverable By Prevailing Employers in FEHA Cases Post-Williams

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On May 4, 2015, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire District, holding that unsuccessful FEHA plaintiffs should not be ordered to pay the defendant’s ordinary litigation costs unless, “plaintiff brought or continued litigating the action without an objective basis for believing it had potential merit” (also called “the Christianburg standard”). (2015) 61 Cal. 4th 97, 99-100.  Prior to Williams, the Christianburg standard applied when defendants sought attorneys’ fees after prevailing on the merits of a FEHA claim, but there was a split in authority regarding whether the higher threshold in Christianburg applied to awards of ordinary costs under California Code of Civil Procedure section 1032.  Williams resolved the split and held that FEHA constitutes an exception to section 1032 and that defendants must meet the higher threshold in Christianburg before the court can exercise its discretion in awarding costs.

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