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McKenna v. City of Philadelphia

July 24, 2009

MICHAEL MCKENNA, WILLIAM MCKENNA, AND RAYMOND CARNATION
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.

MEMORANDUM

The plaintiffs in this Title VII civil rights suit, Michael McKenna, William McKenna, and Raymond Carnation, have moved for an award of pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest, and delay damages on the awards of compensatory damages and back pay in this case. Each of the three plaintiffs was awarded compensatory damages in an amount in excess of Title VII's statutory cap in a jury verdict entered May 14, 2008. In a subsequent Memorandum and Order, this Court has ruled that the jury award will be capped at the statutory amount of $300,000 for each plaintiff. After an evidentiary hearing, the Court awarded plaintiff Raymond Carnation back pay in the amount of $208,781.

For the reasons set out below, the Court will award plaintiff Raymond Carnation pre-judgment interest on his back pay award in the amount of $46,560. The Court will deny the plaintiffs' request for delay damages and for pre-judgment interest on their compensatory damage awards. The Court will deny the plaintiffs' request for post-judgment interest without prejudice as premature.

I. Delay Damages

The plaintiffs have requested that they be awarded "delay damages" in the amount of 10% of the amount of the compensatory damages that they have been awarded. They state that they are entitled to delay damages, "[g]iven that there was no offer by the City to settle within one year[ ] of the litigation commencement date." Plaintiffs' Petitions to Fix Costs at ¶ 19. The plaintiffs do not explain the statutory basis for their request of delay damages, but they appear to be relying on Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 238, which allows exactly the type of award the plaintiffs seek.

Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 238 allows for an award of delay damages in cases involving death, bodily injury and property damages. Rule 238 authorizes a court to award a prevailing plaintiff an amount on his or her damages calculated as the prime rate of interest for a period beginning one year after the suit is filed up to the date of verdict or decision, but excluding any time after a defendant makes a settlement offer if the eventual verdict is no greater than 125% of the offer.

Pa. R. Civ. P. 238.

Delay damages under Pennsylvania Rule 238 are not available for causes of action, like the plaintiffs' Title VII claims here, that arise under federal law. Savarese v. Agriss, 883 F.2d 1194, 1207 (3d Cir. 1989). Where a plaintiff's claim is "predicated upon a violation of a federal statute, state substantive law, particularly Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 238, is not implicated." Id. (internal quotation and citation omitted). The plaintiffs have cited no federal authority for their request for delay damages, and the Court declines to award such damages.

II. Post-Judgment Interest

The plaintiffs have requested post-judgment interest on their compensatory damage award for the period from the May 14, 2008, jury verdict in this case to the present and continuing until the judgment is satisfied. Plaintiffs' Petitions to Fix Costs at ¶¶ 11-12, 17.

Post-judgment interest is set by federal statute: 28 U.S.C. § 1961. The statute provides that "[i]nterest shall be allowed on any money judgment in a civil case recovered in a district court" in an amount that is to be "calculated from the date of the entry of the judgment, at a rate equal to the weekly average 1-year constant maturity Treasury yield, as published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, for the calendar week preceding the date of the judgment." § 1961(a).

The statutory language makes clear that post-judgment interest begins to accrue only "from the date of the entry of judgment." Here, the Court has not yet entered judgment on the plaintiffs' claims and post-judgment interest has not yet begun to accrue. As the defendant has conceded, once judgment is entered, post-judgment interest will begin to accrue under § 1961 until that judgment is paid, subject to the judgment being reversed or reduced on appeal or post-judgment motions. The Court will therefore deny the plaintiffs' request for post-judgment interest for the period from the May 14, 2008, jury verdict to the present because that time period is pre-judgment. The Court will deny without prejudice the plaintiffs' request for post-judgment interest for the future period between the entry of judgment and the satisfaction of that judgment.

III. Pre-Judgment Interest

An award of pre-judgment interest in a Title VII case is committed to the discretion of the trial court. Robinson v. S.E. Pa. Transp. Auth., 982 F.2d 892, 898 (3d Cir. 1993). The plaintiffs have requested that pre-judgment interest be awarded on both the compensatory award to all three plaintiffs and the back pay award to plaintiff ...


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