The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge
The matter before the court arises out of litigation involving a dispute over whether various actions taken by Defendant with respect to Plaintiff Alan D. Gordon, M.D., and his employment constituted violations of the antitrust laws, and resulting in a judgment for Defendant. Defendant has filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs and a motion for sanctions. Specifically, the court must determine whether Defendant is entitled to attorneys' fees or sanctions based on Plaintiffs' claims or conduct during the course of the litigation, which included a non-jury trial. Because Defendant fails to establish that Plaintiffs' claims or conduct support a finding of frivolousness or bad faith, the court will deny both motions.
On February 2, 2000, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint against Defendant Lewistown Hospital ("the Hospital"), alleging violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2. As a result of summary judgment decisions, the only issues left for trial were those asserted in Counts I, II and III of the amended complaint. A non-jury trial on these issues was conducted between April 3 and April 23, 2002. Following the conclusion of the non-jury trial and post-trial briefing, judgment was entered on July 11, 2003, in favor of the Hospital on all counts of the amended complaint. On July 25, 2003, the Hospital filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs and a motion for sanctions. Plaintiffs filed an appeal on August 8, 2003 and, thereafter, this court stayed the briefing and disposition of the Hospital's motions pending appeal.
This court's judgment was affirmed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals by mandate filed November 17, 2005. Plaintiffs' petition for rehearing and petition for writ of certiorari were subsequently denied. By order dated June 27, 2006, this court lifted the stay on the Hospital's motions and set forth a briefing schedule for those motions. The motions are now ripe for disposition.
A. Motion for Attorneys' Fees
1. Standard Under 42 U.S.C. § 11113
The decision whether to award attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 11113 "lies in the discretion of the district court." Mathews v. Lancaster Gen. Hosp., 87 F.3d 624, 628 (2006). In order to recover under § 11113, prevailing defendants must establish "(1) that they are the among the persons covered by § 11111; (2) that the standards set in § 11112(a) were followed; (3) that they substantially prevailed; and (4) that [plaintiff's] claims or conduct during the litigation were frivolous, unreasonable, without foundation or in bad faith." Id. at 642; see 42 U.S.C. § 11113.
2. The Parties' Arguments
The parties do not appear to dispute the first three requirements of recovery under § 11113 but instead focus on the fourth requirement -- specifically whether the "frivolous" or "bad faith" requirements were met. The Hospital's argument is that Plaintiffs' "true motivation" for the litigation was to bankrupt the Hospital through astronomical legal expenses, which establishes sufficient bad faith to warrant granting it attorneys' fees. Plaintiffs attempt to link the concept of bad faith to frivolousness and argue that, even though their claims were ultimately unsuccessful, they were not frivolous and therefore fail to satisfy a "frivolous and bad faith" standard. Plaintiffs' interpretation that the frivolous and bad faith elements are intertwined is incorrect. Nor is the court completely convinced by Defendant's argument that, even if the claims are not frivolous here, there is a subjective intent that alone satisfies the bad faith standard and justifies attorneys' fees.
3. Statutory Construction and Plaintiffs' Interpretation that Bad Faith Cannot Exist Absent a Finding of Frivolousness
Plaintiffs' argument that the frivolousness and bad faith elements are linked is inconsistent with basic principles of statutory construction. Section 11113 provides:
In any suit brought against a defendant, to the extent that a defendant has met the standards set forth under section 11112(a) of this title and the defendant substantially prevails, the court shall, at the conclusion of the action, award to a substantially prevailing party defending any such claim the cost of the suit attributable to such claim, including a reasonable attorney's fee, if the claim, or the claimant's conduct during the litigation of the claim, was frivolous, unreasonable, without foundation, or in bad faith. For the purposes of this section, a defendant ...