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Attorneys ask for more than $600K from St. Louis County in officer's discrimination lawsuit

Attorneys ask for more than $600K from St. Louis County in officer's discrimination lawsuit

CLAYTON — St. Louis County police had multiple opportunities to settle a complaint filed by a gay police sergeant but "stonewalled" the officer's attorneys, the attorneys said in a motion filed Tuesday seeking more than $600,000 in fees.

Russ Riggan and Sam Moore asked Judge David Vincent III to double their normal hourly rates, saying they deserve $610,855 in fees as well as about $6,500 in reimbursement for litigation costs and expenses associated with the 2017 lawsuit.

It ended after a five-day trial on Oct. 25 with a $20 million verdict in favor of Sgt. Keith Wildhaber.

Wildhaber claimed the department discriminated against him, prevented his promotion, and retaliated against him for speaking out. On his sex discrimination claim, the jury awarded him $1.98 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages. On his retaliation claim, the jury awarded $990,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages.

"Putting aside the amount of the verdict, the value of the vindication that plaintiff obtained via the jury’s verdicts cannot be overstated," his attorneys said in the motion.

The money is in addition to the percentage of the verdict the attorneys get — a number on which Riggan declined to comment.

"Given that this has been a 'no offer' case, to say that plaintiff’s counsel obtained a remarkable result in this case would be a gigantic understatement," according to the motion.

Asked to comment, the county counselor's office said, "We don't comment on pending litigation. The county counselor's office will file a response to today's filing."

In the motion, Wildhaber's attorneys claimed that the county counselors "stonewalled" them during the discovery process by failing to properly answer written discovery, withholding documents, violating the court’s discovery order and refusing to produce witnesses.

Wildhaber's attorneys said in the motion that the county used "aggressive and contentious tactics," offered nothing to resolve the case and ignored their proposals for a resolution.

The verdict could be the largest of its kind in the history of the Missouri Human Rights Act, they said, calling it "nothing short of exceptional."

"It is clear from post-trial media reports that the verdict in this case," the motion continued, "may have significant and long-lasting effects on the personnel practices not only of defendant, but likely of other employers across the state of Missouri."

Read the coverage of the Wildhaber suit, trial and decisions after the verdict

County leaders call the Wildhaber suit, trial and verdict 'wake-up call.'

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