The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES (DOC. No. 163)
This is an action for gender discrimination and retaliation brought pursuant to Title VII and the PHRA. Currently pending before this Court is the motion for attorney's fees and expenses (doc. no. 163) filed by plaintiff, Kristina Gerszten, following a jury trial in which the jury found that defendant University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Cancer Centers (UPMC Cancer Centers) retaliated against plaintiff in three (3) different, adverse employment decisions. Defendant UPMC Cancer Centers has filed a brief in opposition (doc. no. 172) to said motion.
After personally reviewing every item of the forty-one (41) page statement of plaintiff's attorney's fees, totaling $296,159.00, and expenses of $21,181.22, an exercise of which this Court is intimately familiar and well-experienced from his more than thirty (30) years of private practice, this Court finds that the hourly rates are reasonable, and that the number of hours billed are reasonable, especially in light of plaintiff's counsel's very effective trial advocacy in the face of an aggressive (albeit, always professional) opponent. While in every previous case before this Court involving an attorney's fee petition, this Court has reduced the hourly rates and/or the number of hours, the Court finds that the total attorney's fees and expenses in this case are quite modest, in light of the jury verdict, the determination of the opposition, and the extensive briefing and pre-trial and trial work in this case. Quite frankly, given the legal issues in this case, and the determination and zeal of the opposing parties from the advent of this litigation, up until and including the current motion, the Court expected the attorney's fee petition to amount to around $500,000.*fn1 Thus, accordingly, the Court will grant plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and expenses (doc. no. 163), and for the first time, in the amount of the entire request of $296,159.00 in attorney's fees, and $21,181.22 in expenses, for a total award of $317,340.22.*fn2
A "prevailing party" in a Title VII case may recover reasonable attorney's fees and expenses/costs. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k). A "prevailing party" also may recover counsel fees and costs under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. 43 Pa.Con.Stat. § 962(c.2).
A plaintiff is considered to be a prevailing party if he or she is successful on any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in advancing the lawsuit. Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 109 (1992). When a plaintiff "achieves a level of success that makes the hours reasonably expended a satisfactory basis for making a fee award," he or she should recover a full compensatory fee. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 435 (1983). In making this assessment, the Court "should focus on the significance of the overall relief obtained by the plaintiff." Id.
"Where a plaintiff has obtained excellent results, his [or her] attorney should recover a fully compensatory fee," and "the fee award should not be reduced simply because the plaintiff failed to prevail on every contention raised in the lawsuit." Hensley v. Eckerhart, at 435, citing Davis v. County of Los Angeles, 8 E.P.D. ¶ 944 , at 5049 (CD Cal. 1974). The Court is mindful that "a request for attorney's fees should not result in a second major litigation." Id. at 437.
In this case, the Court has no doubt that Plaintiff was the prevailing party in this litigation under Title VII and PHRA. Plaintiff's counsel, by the sheer monetary amount of the jury verdict alone, has obtained significant relief on behalf of her client. And, while it is true that the jury found in favor of plaintiff on her retaliation claims, but not on her gender discrimination claims, as the Supreme Court in Hensley stated, "the fees should not be reduced simply because the plaintiff failed to prevail on every contention raised in the lawsuit." Hensley at 435.
In summary, the jury awarded approximately $3.1 million in damages, and the verdict in this case has been the highest plaintiff's verdict in this Court to date. Thus, there is no question that plaintiff's overall success has been significant and noteworthy. Accordingly, the Court finds that plaintiff is the prevailing party, as she has obtained "excellent results," and therefore, plaintiff's counsel is entitled to recover a "full compensatory fee." Hensley at 435 (citation committed).
In cases such as the instant case, the Court uses the lodestar formula established by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Lindy Bros. Builders, Inc. v. American Radiator & Standand Sanitary Corp., 487 F.2d 16 (3d Cir. 1973), which requires multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. Loughner v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 260 F.3d 173, 176 (3d Cir. 2001); Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983).
"A District Court has substantial discretion in determining what constitutes a reasonable rate and reasonable hours, but once the lodestar is determined, it is presumed to be the reasonable fee." ...