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Lohman v. Borough

July 1, 2008

NICHOLAS LOHMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DURYEA BOROUGH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Nicholas Lohman's Motion for Consideration for Prejudgment Interest. (Doc. 111.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted, and the Court will alter the judgment to include prejudgment interest in the amount of one-thousand, seven-hundred, thirteen dollars and twenty-eight cents ($1713.28) against municipal Defendant Duryea Borough and two-hundred and eighty-five dollars and fifty-five cents ($285.55) each against individual Defendants Ann Dommes, Frank Groblewski, Audrey Yager and Joan Orloski, for a total of $2855.48 in prejudgment interest.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are well known to the parties and the Court. Therefore, the Court will only discuss the facts relevant to this motion.

This case was tried before a jury, which rendered a verdict on April 23, 2008 in favor of Plaintiff Lohman, for his First Amendment retaliation claim with respect to his assistance in filing a grievance, against Defendants Duryea Borough, Ann Dommes, Frank Groblewski, Audrey Yager, and Joan Orloski. (Doc. 102.) The jury found in favor of Defendant Robert Webb, however, on Plaintiff's claim of retaliation with respect to the assistance in filing a grievance. (Doc. 102.) The jury also found in favor of all Defendants on Plaintiff Lohman's claims for First Amendment retaliation with respect to his union contract negotiations. (Doc. 102.) For Plaintiff's successful claims, the jury awarded damages for lost wages, totaling twelve-thousand, two-hundred dollars ($12,200) against Defendants Duryea Borough, Ann Dommes, Frank Groblewski, Audrey Yager, and Joan Orloski. (Doc. 102.) On May 6, 2008 Plaintiff filed a motion for prejudgment interest. (Doc. 111.)

This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff Nicholas Lohman argues that he is entitled to prejudgment interest on his award of twelve-thousand, two-hundred dollars ($12,200), to be calculated from the time of furlough until the date of judgment, because it constitutes an award of "back pay."

In Robinson v. Fetterman, 387 F. Supp. 2d 483 (E.D. Pa. 2005), Judge Bartle considered whether a successful plaintiff in a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was entitled to prejudgment interest. Id. at 483. In Robinson, the Court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff following a non-jury trial on claims for violations of plaintiff's First Amendment right to free speech and Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Id. The Robinson court entered non-economic compensatory damages of thirty-five thousand dollars ($35,000) against each defendant.

In considering the propriety of prejudgment interest, the court noted that "[t]he Supreme Court has held that § 1983 must be interpreted 'in light of common law principles that were well settled at the time of its enactment.'" Id. at 484 (quoting Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 123 (1997)). As Section 1983 is silent on the question of prejudgment interest, the court looked to the common law principles at the time the statute was enacted in 1871. Id. The court noted that "in a personal injury action prejudgment interest for non-liquidated damages was not available at that time." Id.

The Robinson court also noted that damages pursuant to Section 1983 "must be governed by 'the principle that a person should be compensated fairly for injuries caused by violation of his legal rights.'" Id. (quoting Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 257 (1978)). In discussing this principle, the court cited the Third Circuit Court of Appeals opinion of Savarese v. Agriss, 883 F.2d 1194 (3d Cir. 1989), which held that "in federal question cases 'an award of prejudgment interest would generally be committed to the discretion of the district court.'" Robinson, 387 F. Supp. 2d at 485 (quoting Savarese, 883 F.2d at 1207).

Robinson also considered the Third Circuit Court of Appeals case Poleto v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 826 F.2d 1270 (3d Cir. 1987), abrogated on other grounds by Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827 (1990)). In considering when prejudgment interest is appropriate, Poleto differentiated between prejudgment interest awards based on economic harms and non-economic harms. Id. at 1278. Specifically, the Poleto court held that it would be inappropriate for prejudgment interest to be granted for non-economic awards. Id. at 1278 n.14.

In fashioning its decision, the Robinson court considered both Poleto and Savarese. In denying the plaintiff's request for prejudgment interest, the Robinson court held that:

[t]he purpose of prejudgment interest is to make a party whole. The plaintiff's damages here were unliquidated. There was no economic loss. Even if the court had discretion under such circumstances to allow prejudgment interest under § 1983 or § 1988, the judgment of $35,000 awarded ...


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