chapter  13
6 Pages

Big Benefits on One Side, Small Costs on the Other

WithStuart S. Nagel

The illustrative example which follows involves a leading grower in the Peoria, Illinois, area (who employs approximately 70 farmworkers a year) being sued by the Migrant Legal Counsel which is a legal services agency that specializes in the legal problems of migratory farm workers in the United States. The workers, as a large class action, were suing to recover approximately $3 000 000 in wages that had been deducted to pay for loans, rents and other expenses without proper legal authorization. The money had actually been loaned or advanced to the workers, but the procedures designed to prevent illegal exploitation had not been followed. The growers insisted they should pay nothing, since the money they deducted was for loans actually made. The best expectations of the workers in terms of net gain would be rather low, since whatever they collected they would have to repay, with the possible exception of about $50 000 in compensation to some of the named plaintiffs who were fired or quit their jobs, unless unlikely punitive damages could be obtained. The best expectations of the growers would be to spend $50 000 or more going to trial and win with no liability. Thus the object for an SOS court mediator would be to come up with a settlement that would be worth more than $50 000 to the farm workers and would simultaneously save more than $50 000 in litigation costs for the growers.