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McGuffey v. Brink's

February 9, 2009

JAMES MCGUFFEY, PLAINTIFF.
v.
BRINK'S, INC., DEFENDANT.
JAMES MCGUFFEY, PLAINTIFF.
v.
BRINK'S, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff James McGuffey ("McGuffey") filed two lawsuits against Brink's, Inc., ("Brink's") for age discrimination and retaliation. The cases were consolidated and went to trial. On June 19, 2008, I entered judgment for McGuffey (Doc. #189 in 05-2840; Doc. #73 in 07-2299). He then filed a motion to amend the judgment under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e) (Doc. #203 in 05-2840; Doc. ##83, 84, and 85 in 07-2299) and a petition for attorney's fees and costs of litigation under 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(b), 626(b) (Doc. #200 in 05-2840; Doc. #79 in 07-2299). For the reasons stated below, I will deny McGuffey's motion to amend the judgment but grant his petition for attorney's fees and costs.

II. BACKGROUND

Brink's provides armored car transportation and other services related to security. McGuffey worked for Brink's for 22 years, eventually becoming the Northeast Regional Vice-President ("Northeast RVP"). On October 20, 2003, Brink's closed the Northeast Region and discharged McGuffey, who was then 52. On January 12, 2004, McGuffey filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging age discrimination based on Brink's discharging him. On June 14, 2005, McGuffey brought a lawsuit against Brink's and The Brinks Company Pension Retirement Plan ("Plan") in this Court under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq.; the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 951 et seq.; the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Act ("WPCA"), 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. 260 et seq.; and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 26 U.S.C. §§ 4972-75, 29 U.S.C. §§ 401-15. The case was docketed Civil Action 05-2840 ("2005 case").

In May 2006, Brink's re-opened the Northeast Region. Although McGuffey had expressed an interest in being re-hired, Brink's instead hired Darrell Quinn as Northeast RVP. In response, McGuffey filed a second grievance with the EEOC, alleging age discrimination and retaliation for his 2005 case and prior EEOC grievance based on Brink's not re-hiring him. In September 2007, McGuffey submitted a job application for the position of Southeast Regional Vice-President ("Southeast RVP"), but Brink's declined to hire him. On December 12, 2007, McGuffey filed a third grievance with the EEOC based on Brink's not hiring him as Southeast RVP. On June 6, 2007, McGuffey brought the second lawsuit against Brink's in this Court under the ADEA and PHRA. The case was docketed Civil Action 07-2299 ("2007 case").

On January 11, 2008, I dismissed the Plan and McGuffey's claim under ERISA (Doc. #111 in 05-2840). The 2005 and 2007 cases were then consolidated. On May 14, 2008, I granted summary judgment as to McGuffey's claims for discrimination and retaliation relating to the Southeast RVP position (Doc. #132 in 05-2840; Doc. #47 in 07-2299). On May 29, 2008, I dismissed his claim under the WPCL (Doc. #165 in 05-2840; Doc #59 in 07-2299). McGuffey then proceeded to trial on his claims for discrimination and retaliation related to the Northeast RVP position. On June 17, 2008, the jury returned a verdict awarding McGuffey $170,000. Brink's was found liable for retaliation but not for discrimination. On June 19, 2008, I entered judgment for McGuffey (Doc. #189 in 05-2840; Doc. #73 in 07-2299).

Carmen R. Matos ("Matos") has represented McGuffey since his first grievance with the EEOC. In April 2008, George P. Wood ("Wood") joined this representation to assist Matos with the trial beginning on May 30, 2008. Throughout this litigation, Brink's was represented by James Kellett ("Kellett") and Alexander Granovsky of Crowell & Moring, LLP.*fn1

IV. DISCUSSION

Before me are McGuffey's motion to amend the judgment under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e) (Doc. #203 in 05-2840; Doc. ##83, 84, and 85 in 07-2299) and his petition for attorney's fees and costs of litigation under 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(b), 626(b) (Doc. #200 in 05-2840; Doc. #79 in 07-2299). I discuss each motion in turn below.

A. Motion to Amend Verdict

McGuffey filed a motion captioned "Motion to Mold the Verdict, Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e)" (Doc. #203 in 05-2840; Doc. ##83, 84, and 85 in 07-2299). He later moved to amend this motion to be filed also under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 52, 52(b), 58(a)(2) "or any other rule the Court finds controlling to avoid manifest injustice." (Doc. #222 in 05-2840; Doc. #96 in 07-2299). I must consider the substance of what McGuffey requests to determine the applicable rule. See U.S. v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 287-88 (3d Cir. 2003) ("[T]he function of the motion, and not the caption, dictates which Rule is applicable."). McGuffey requests that I amend my judgment of June 19, 2008, to award McGuffey the equitable relief of reinstatement to his former position as Northeast RVP and to order Brink's to publicize my amended judgment. These requests go to the merits of my judgment because they concern what relief McGuffey deserves because of the ADEA violation. Therefore, I must analyze McGuffey's motion under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e).*fn2 See Buchanan v. Stanships, Inc., 485 U.S. 265, 267 (1988) ("The federal courts generally have invoked Rule 59(e) only to support reconsideration of matters properly encompassed in a decision on the merits.").

Rule 59(e) provides for "[a] motion to alter or amend a judgment."*fn3 Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e). It "may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment." Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 128 S.Ct. 2605, 2617 n.5 (2008) (quoting 11C Charles Wright & Arthur Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2810.1 (2d ed. 1995)). "A proper motion to alter or amend judgment must rely on one of three major grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence not available previously; or (3) the need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995). McGuffey does not suggest that the first or second ground applies, but his motion may be read to allege the third ground.

"Congress intended victims of age discrimination to be made whole by restoring them to the position they would have been in had the discrimination never occurred." Maxfield v. Sinclair Int'l, 766 F.2d 788, 796 (3d Cir.1985). The remedies of reinstatement and front pay (i.e., future earnings) are both designed to accomplish this purpose. Id. Accordingly, they are alternative remedies. In other words, an ADEA plaintiff "is not entitled to both reinstatement and front pay." Starceski v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 54 F.3d 1089, 1103 (3d Cir. 1995). Although reinstatement is "the preferred remedy to avoid future lost earnings," it "may not be feasible in all cases." Maxfield, 766 F.2d at 796. Thus, the district court may choose between granting reinstatement and instructing the jury on front pay. See Starceski, 54 F.3d at 1103 (noting that whether to grant reinstatement "is within the sound discretion of the district court"); Maxfield, 766 F.2d at 796 (noting that "the amount of damages available as front pay is a jury question.").

McGuffey's motion does not allege that he ever moved for reinstatement before the final judgment was entered or objected to my instructing the jury on front pay. Indeed, he even requested an instruction and interrogatory on front pay. (Pl.'s Proposed Points for Charge 43; Pl.'s Am. Proposed Interrogs. to the Jury 2.) By seeking this relief prior to trial, McGuffey in effect waived his right to reinstatement. He cannot now argue that my decision to instruct the jury on front pay rather than to grant reinstatement was incorrect or unjust. Cf. Starceski, 54 F.3d at 1103 (noting that a petitioner seeking reinstatement "failed to object when the trial judge instructed the jury on front pay, even though he intended to make a motion for reinstatement"). Therefore, with regard to whether McGuffey should have been reinstated, I find no "need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." North River Ins. Co., 52 F.3d at 1218.

With regard to ordering Brink's to publicize my judgment, McGuffey cites no law supporting this request other than Rodriguez v. Taylor, 569 F.2d 1231 (3d Cir. 1977). Rodriguez was a class action lawsuit alleging age discrimination because of an eligibility requirement to take Philadelphia's civil service exam. Id. at 1234-35. Following a bench trial, the district court found discrimination in violation of the ADEA and ordered "certain corrective measures designed to publicize his order and to encourage middle-aged persons to sit for a new examination to be held to fill subsequent vacancies." Id. at 1235 n.4. In the instant case, however, corrective measures are not necessary to counteract the ADEA violation found at trial.

For the reasons stated above and because McGuffey raises arguments that could have been raised before I entered my judgment, I will deny McGuffey's motion to amend the judgment (Doc. #203 in 05-2840; Doc. ##83, 84, and 85 in 07-2299).

B. Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs

McGuffey also filed a petition for attorney's fees and costs of litigation (Doc. #200 in 05-2840; Doc. #79 in 07-2299). The ADEA incorporates the fee-shifting provision of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206 et seq., providing: "The court in such action shall . allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). See 29 U.S.C. § 626(b) (referencing § 216(b)).

A district court has discretion in calculating an award of attorney's fees under § 216(b). See Pub. Interest Research Group of New Jersey, Inc. v. Windall, 51 F.3d 1179, 1184 (3d Cir. 1995) ("The amount of a fee award . is within the district court's discretion so long as it employs correct standards and procedures and makes findings of fact not clearly erroneous.") In exercising this discretion, "the district court must provide a concise but clear explanation of its reasons for a fee award." Pa. Envtl. Def. Found. v. Canon-McMillan Sch. Dist., 152 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 1998) (internal quotations omitted).

Analysis of an attorney's fees petition under § 216(b) has three steps. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983) (setting forth fee-shifting analysis); Blum v. Witco Chem. Corp., 829 F.2d 367 (3d Cir. 1987) (applying Hensley to § 216(b)). First, only a prevailing party may be awarded attorney's fees. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. Second, in "determining the amount of a reasonable fee," the court should calculate "the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Id. This calculation produces a number called the "lodestar" that "is presumed to be the reasonable fee." Lanni v. New Jersey, 259 F.3d 146, 149 (3d Cir. 2001). Third, "other considerations . may lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. Because the lodestar is presumptively reasonable, "[t]he party seeking adjustment has the burden of proving that an adjustment is necessary." Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990).

1. Prevailing Party

First, "plaintiffs may be considered prevailing parties for attorney's fees purposes if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433 (internal quotations omitted). "The touchstone of the prevailing party inquiry must be the material alteration of the legal relationship of the parties in a manner which Congress sought to promote in the fee statute." Tex. State Teachers Ass'n v. Garland Indep. Sch. Dist., 489 U.S. 782, 792-93 (1989). Here, a jury found Brink's liable for retaliation and awarded compensatory damages of $170,000. Thus, McGuffey clearly is a prevailing party.

2. Calculation of Lodestar

Next, I must calculate the lodestar by determining "a reasonable hourly rate" and "the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. See also Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 897 (1984) ("When . the applicant for a fee has carried his burden of showing that the claimed rate and number of hours are reasonable, the resulting product is presumed to be the reasonable fee."). McGuffey asserts that Matos worked 866 hours at ...


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