The Contours of a New FRCP, Rule 68.1: A Proposed Two-Way Offer of Settlement Provision for Federal Fee-Shifting Cases

UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-012


Our research began with interviews of experienced attorneys who prosecute and defend civil rights and employment discrimination cases. We set out to determine the extent to which offers of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 ("FRCP 68" or "Rule 68") are made in these type of cases and the reasons why that Rule is or is not used. We focused on civil rights and employment discrimination litigation because it is in those cases where Rule 68 has the greatest potential to stimulate an early resolution of the dispute. Rule 68 provides the offeror greater leverage in civil rights and employment discrimination cases than in most other types of civil litigation, because the potential sanction to the prevailing offeree who turns down and fails to improve upon the offer includes the forfeiture of post-offer statutory attorneys' fees. And in these cases, fees often constitute the greater part of a plaintiff's recovery.

In this, our second report, we discuss how Rule 68 might be amended to make it a more effective tool for stimulating the prompt and fair resolution of civil rights and employment discrimination actions. Our suggested potential amendments are drawn largely, but not entirely, from two sources: the comments and suggestions made by the attorneys we interviewed, and the practices that have evolved in states that have similar provisions in their respective rules of civil procedure. In very broad terms, we discuss (1) having a separately numbered subdivision of the Rule for cases arising under federal fee-shifting statutes; (2) modifying the terminology of Rule 68 to describe more explicitly the mechanics and sanctions of the Rule; (3) allowing plaintiffs, not just defendants, to initiate offers under a "two-way" rule; (4) devising a set of incentives and sanctions calculated to promote the timely and fair resolution of disputes without unduly threatening either party; and (5) incorporating time frames for making and responding to offers.