January 28, 2020
The wheels of justice turn slowly. In August 2015, former MSA Manager Julie Atwood filed a lawsuit against Mission Support Alliance (“MSA”) and MSA Vice President Steve Young for damages flowing from her wrongful termination for whistleblowing. The trial in this matter began on September 11, 2017, and on October 10, 2017, a Benton County jury awarded Ms. Atwood $8.1 million in damages caused by MSA’s wrongful termination of Ms. Atwood only days after she blew the whistle on MSA’s misconduct. On liability, the jury unanimously found that:
- MSA engaged in retaliation against Ms. Atwood;
- MSA Vice President Steve Young aided and abetted in MSA’s retaliation against Ms. Atwood;
- MSA wrongfully discharged Ms. Atwood for whistleblowing;
- MSA engaged in gender discrimination against Ms. Atwood;
- MSA Vice President Steve Young aided and abetted in MSA’s gender discrimination.
See website “Trials” section under Atwood for details. In addition, she was awarded $1.5 million in attorney fees and legal costs, but she has not been paid. In February 2018, MSA appealed the jury’s verdict to the Court of Appeals in Spokane, and simultaneously attacked Trial Judge Federspeil’s rulings in the media.
Mission Support Alliance is actually a partnership between billion dollar companies Leidos and Centerra Group. Together, they have responsibility for the Mission Support Contract with the United States Department of Energy at the Hanford Site.
The briefing to the Court of Appeals has been in for some time. The oral argument on the case occurred on January 28, 2020. By most accounts, it did not go well for MSA. Click below to hear Court of Appeals oral argument
Now Ms. Atwood waits for the three-judge panel to issue their ruling either affirming the jury’s verdict or finding fault with the verdict. Either way, there is a likelihood that the losing party will petition for review by the State Supreme Court. We expect a ruling by the Court Appeals in April or May 2020. But if a petition is filed with the Supreme Court, it may another year or two before the case gets resolved. Jack Sheridan commented, “persons not involved in the litigation process find it hard to believe that justice can take so long, but we are happy to wait as long as it takes so that the Court of Appeals gets it right, and if need be, so the Supreme Court can say the final words: ‘jury verdict affirmed.’”