Louisville Firefighters Suing Attorneys Over Settlement

What would you do for an attorney who got you a $43.5 million settlement? What if the attorney only took a $1.5 million fee, not the more normal one-third? In Louisville, Kentucky, roughly 500 current and former firefighters who received a $43.5 million settlement in 2009 are now suing their attorney claiming he pushed them into settling for too small a figure.

The original case is one we covered back in 2009 relating to the improper calculation of overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Kentucky wage and hour laws. The law suit had been tied up in court for over nine years, and followed a series of prior cases dating back to the early 1990s.

The firefighters are now suing attorney Doug Steele, his law firm of Woodley & McGillivary, of Washington, DC, and a Kentucky attorney, Herbert Segal, who served as local counsel. The suit seeks the difference between what the firefighters settled for in 2009 and what they would have received if they had gone to trial.

The suit alleges that Steele never told them what they would get if the case went to trial, only what they were offered in the settlement. The suit claims that Steele was required by Kentucky law to meet with each firefighter individually to discuss what was in their best interests, not by holding a large meeting.

Steele is quoted as saying “We believe that we provided excellent legal assistance to more than 800 firefighters in the Louisville back pay litigation. Our firm fought on their behalf for more than nine years, ultimately resulting in a settlement worth more than $50 million dollars in back pay, settlement premium, retirement benefits and expenses.”

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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