Employer in Stock Drop Suit Awarded $50K

A federal judge in Illinois awarded the employer in a stock-drop case $50,000 in costs a year after ruling against the employee who filed the case.

U.S. District Judge Joan B. Gottschall of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued the decision in David E. Rogers’ 2004 suit filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which accused Baxter International of continuing to offer company stock in its 401(k) plan after it was no longer prudent to do so. Most of the costs awarded to Baxter and two of its executives dealt with photocopying, transcripts, and video records of court proceedings; the judge refused to award costs for expert witness expenses and computerized research.

Gottschall ruled in May 2010 that the defendants were immunized from liability by ERISA’s Section 404(c) safe harbor provision (see “Court Gives Baxter 404(c) Protection in Stock Drop Suit“). 

In this ruling, Gottschall rejected Rogers’ arguments that he shouldn’t be hit with litigation costs because of an ERISA provision that generally allows such expenses only if the loser’s position was not “substantially justified.” Gottschall asserted that the prior cases interpreting the ERISA provision have dealt with attorneys’ fees and not other litigation costs.

The case is Rogers v. Baxter International Inc., N.D. Ill., 1:04-cv-06476.