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Schlier v. Rice

December 22, 2009

JIMMY A. SCHLIER, ET AL. PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAPT. JOHN G. RICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion to Amend or Correct the Judgment to Include Pre-Judgment Interest filed by Plaintiff Wreckers International Inc. ("Wreckers"). (Doc. 241.) Also before the Court is the Motion for Attorneys Fees and Costs filed by Plaintiffs Jimmy A. Schlier and Wreckers. (Doc. 244.) For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff Wreckers' motion for prejudgment interest will be granted in the amount of three hundred thirty nine thousand, seven hundred twenty dollars ($339,720.00) and Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys fees and costs will be granted in part and denied in part in the amount of four hundred seventy-three thousand, five hundred seventy-four dollars and eighty four cents ($473,574.84).

BACKGROUND

This Court has issued several Memoranda and Orders in this case and, therefore, will not belabor the factual issues underlying it. The parties are familiar with the facts of the case and, therefore, the Court will only discuss the facts relevant to this motion.

Plaintiff Jimmy A. Schlier is the owner, president and operator of Plaintiff Wreckers International Inc., d/b/a Schlier's Towing & Service Center ("Schlier's Towing"). In 1976 or 1977, Schlier's business began performing towing services for the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP") and until September 2002, Plaintiff's business was on the State Police's approved towing referral lists, whereby they regularly received requests from motorists and the State Police to tow vehicles that were broken down, involved in accidents, or impounded for criminal investigations.

On April 27, 2002, Plaintiff Schlier sent a formal complaint to the Director of the Division of Internal Affairs, which investigates reports of misconduct, alleging that the Swiftwater barracks had failed to pay bills and had improperly directed towing business to another towing operator owned by a convicted felon. On August 27, 2002, Rice informed Plaintiff that his company would be removed from all Troop N referral lists effective September 6, 2002.

On March 4, 2008, trial commenced against Defendants Rice, Miller, and Dougalas on claims of First Amendment retaliation. On March 20, 2008, after twelve (12) days of trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs, awarding Plaintiff Jimmy Schlier two million, two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($2,250,000) in compensatory damages and awarding the other plaintiff, Wreckers International, Inc., one million dollars ($1,000,000) in compensatory damages, and no punitive damages for either plaintiff. (Doc. 233.) This Court entered judgment accordingly. (Docs. 230, 231.)

Responding to several post-trial motions on November 14, 2008, this Court denied Plaintiffs' Motions for a New Trial, denied Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, denied Defendants' Motion for a New Trial, granted Defendants' Motion for a Remittitur, and ordered Plaintiff Schlier to remit two million, one hundred thousand dollars ($2,100,000) and accept one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) or submit to a new trial on compensatory pain and suffering damages. (Doc. 291.) Plaintiff Schlier elected to have a new trial on damages. (Doc. 292.)

The second trial on the limited issue of compensatory damages began on June 22, 2009. On June 26, 2009, the jury returned a verdict of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) in compensatory damages for Mr. Schlier. (Doc. 370.) Judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff Schlier on June 26, 2009. (Doc. 371.)

On April 2, 2008, Plaintiff Wreckers filed a motion seeking pre-judgment interest in the amount of four hundred three thousand, four hundred five dollars and nine cents ($403,405.09). That same day, Plaintiffs also filed a motion seeking one million, three hundred thousand dollars ($1,300,000) in attorneys fees and thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) in costs. On December 11, 2008, Plaintiffs submitted a new calculation of attorneys fees to reflect the added cost of the second trial. At that time, Plaintiffs sought one million, three hundred eighty thousand, two hundred forty-nine dollars and twenty-five cents ($1,385,249.25) in attorneys fees and thirty-five thousand two hundred and forty-four dollars ($35,244.00) in costs and expenses. (Doc. 296, Exs. 2-3.) Both motions have been fully briefed and are currently ripe for disposition.

DISCUSSION

1. Pre-judgment Interest

Plaintiff Wreckers argues that it is entitled to pre-judgment interest on the judgment entered in its favor. This Court recently had the opportunity to examine how pre-judgment interest should be assessed in cases brought pursuant to § 1983 on First Amendment retaliation claims. In Lohman v. Duryea Borough, 3:05-CV-1423, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51189, at * 4-5 (M.D. Pa. July 1, 2008) (Caputo, J.), this Court held that prejudgment interest is available in § 1983 cases for economic damages. In calculating pre-judgment interest for such claims, this Court applied precedent from this district and determined that IRS overpayment rates are the proper rates to use. Id at *8 (citing Taylor v. Cent. Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Servs. Corp., 890 F. Supp. 360, 368 (M.D. Pa. 1995)). In Lohman, the Court calculated simple pre-judgment interest by multiplying the interest rate for the relevant quarter by the amount owed by the defendant, and then divided that number by four. Id. at *8-9.

Although the Lohman case involved pre-judgment interest on backpay, this Court believes that the rationale in that case applies equally to the damages in the instant case, and will use the same pre-judgment interest calculation. The damages began accruing on September 6, 2002, when Plaintiff Wreckers was removed from the towing list; judgment was entered in favor or Wreckers on March 20, 2008. The following is a calculation of pre-judgment interest ...


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