Court Awards $700k in Attorney Fees in Nebraska Sexual Harassment Case

The seemingly never-ending saga of former Lincoln, Nebraska firefighter Amber Benson has finally come to a conclusion, with a ruling by US District Court Judge Brian C. Buescher awarding her $726,876.04 in attorney fees and costs.  Hopefully that is the conclusion.

Benson filed suit in 2018 alleging gender discrimination and harassment. Her claims coincided with suits by two Lincoln captains who claim they were retaliated against for having reported harassment by others. Here are some of our earlier headlines:

Nebraska Firefighter Files Sexual Discrimination Suit

Court Refuses to Dismiss Nebraska Sexual Harassment Suit

Nebraska Firefighter Awarded $1.2 million For Retaliation

Nebraska City Settles Second of Three Harassment Suits for $500k

Nebraska Firefighter Seeks Injunction To Protect Her From Fire Captain

Nebraska Fire Department Settles Two Gender Discrimination Suits for $900k

Following the settlement of Benson’s claims for $650,000 plus attorney fees earlier this year, her attorney sought $1,855,002.66, broken down as follows:

  • $1,668,600.75 in attorney fees
  • $2,955.00 in legal assistant fees
  • $143,000.41 in litigation expenses
  • $39,815.00 in supplemental fees (for work done after the settlement)
  • $632.50 in supplemental litigation expenses (for costs after the settlement)

The city offered $325,000, which was rejected. That left it to the judge to determine an appropriate award. In a 76-page decision that recites virtually the entire litigation history of the case, Judge Buescher awarded “attorney fees in the amount of $638,156.07 and expenses and costs in the amount of $88,719.97 for a total of $726,876.04.”

Whether both sides will accept the judge’s decision, or one (or perhaps both) will appeal it to the Eighth Circuit – is anyone’s guess. Here is a copy of the decision:

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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