Lawyer, law firm settle AIDS discrimination suit

November 01, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

PHILADELPHIA -- After three weeks of riveting testimony and high-stakes lawyering that rivaled the film "Philadelphia," the AIDS discrimination trial of "Scott Doe" ended yesterday in a way that would never have played on the big screen.

With a secret settlement, which lawyer onlookers suggested would have to be at least $1 million.

"I'm elated, I'm glad it's over, and I'm looking forward to getting along with my legal career," said the lawyer, 30, after the 14 federal court jurors were told that the settlement had ended the trial of his discrimination suit against his former employer, the prestigious law firm of Kohn, Nast & Graf.

The news came shortly before 5 p.m., following a day of waiting while lawyers worked feverishly to complete the agreement.

Some jurors seemed surprised at the settlement. All seemed delighted, and most came up to the "Mr. Doe" as soon as court ended to hug and congratulate the young lawyer.

The plaintiff filed the suit in August 1993 by himself and prosecuted it alone until the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and attorney Alan B. Epstein joined him earlier this year. The plaintiff said he would resume his law career doing some work for his firm.

"I look forward to the opportunity of learning from Alan Epstein," the lawyer said. "From what I've seen, he is an incredible trial lawyer."

Though neither the plaintiff nor the Kohn Nast law firm would discuss the settlement's terms, it would likely top $1 million. The lawyers would certainly seek the plaintiff's final salary at the firm -- $65,000 plus a $5,000 bonus -- spread over most of the 10 years that statistics suggest the plaintiff has to live before developing AIDS.

He is currently HIV-positive but asymptomatic.

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