Wednesday, January 16

FirmSuit of the Day: The House Always Wins

Day 2 of Current Employment's week of law firm employment suits is one of those cases that make you wonder if someone at the plaintiff's attorney's office just missed a question on the client questionnaire. Now it's a cautionary tale, thanks to Legal Blog Watch.

The Story: Theresa Brooks worked for Boston's Peabody & Arnold for sixteen years. Then, one day in 2005 she didn't come in. The next day, still no Theresa. Obviously, the firm was a little worried. Brooks had a history of back problems - the firm had given her a special chair, and made some poor chump do her heavy lifting (probably a law clerk).

When Brooks informed the firm that she could no longer work because of her disabling back issues, Peabody decided a little more inquiry might be in order (back problems don't usually lead to trips to the happiest place on earth), so they sent her for an independent medical exam. But even the independent doctor diagnosed her with spondy-something (does this look like the DSM IV?) and agreed it was disabling. Still, 2&1/2 months after she stopped coming in, Peabody fired Brooks, and she sued.

At trial, Peabody showed a secret spycam video of Brooks... What? Oh, get off your horse - you know your firm's got one on you, too. Anyway, the video showed Brooks "working in her yard, repeatedly bending over, carrying heavy bundles, walking up and down stairs without difficulty, and walking without a limp or a cane," according to the court. But we all know that those videos are edited to make people in wheelchairs look like they spend their days surfing and competing in strongman competitions. That doesn't prove anything, right?

[The video shows that s]he was also physically able to drive forty minutes each way to a casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and to sit playing slot machines for three hours, while claiming that her back problems would not permit her to sit at her desk and type.

Oh. Well. Ok.

Advantage Peabody. Somebody greenlight whoever shot that footage - I smell an indie career. The moral of the story for those of us in the biz? Stick with craps, and it's high table, and let someone else roll.