United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
For ELAINE BARLEY, Plaintiff: CHRISTOPHER A. TINARI, LEAD ATTORNEY, MICHAEL RONALD MILLER, MARGOLIS EDELSTEIN, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
For FOX CHASE CANCER CENTER, Defendant: RICHARD R. HARRIS, LEAD ATTORNEY, LITTLER MENDELSON, PHILADELPHIA, PA; KATE SUE-ELLEN ARDUINI, LITTLER MENDELSON, P.C., PHILADELPHIA, PA.
After prevailing at summary judgment against a probationary employee's discrimination claim, Fox Chase Cancer Center (" Fox Chase" ) seeks $125,907.05 in attorney fees and $7,826.54 in costs pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2) and 42 U.S.C. § 12205. Fox Chase also moves for sanctions against plaintiff's counsel under Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 for fees incurred opposing plaintiff's summary judgment motion. In response, Elaine Barley's counsel, Margolis Edelstein, asks us to sanction Fox Chase's counsel, Littler Mendelson, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 for filing the two vexatious motions.
For the reasons detailed below, we will deny Fox Chase's motions and grant Barley's motion.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
On May 23, 2012, Fox Chase terminated Barley from her position as a clerk in the histology lab before the conclusion of her ninety-day orientation period. See Barley v. Fox Chase Cancer Ctr., 46 F.Supp.2d 565,
567-68, 2014 WL 4375486 at *1 (E.D.Pa. Sept. 3, 2014). On October 23, 2013, Barley sued Fox Chase for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., alleging that it had failed to accommodate her asthma and disregarded her physician's recommendation that she wear a respiratory mask to prevent chemical inhalation in the laboratory. After extensive discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and responses in opposition thereto in July of 2014, followed by replies in August of 2014. On September 3, 2014, we denied Barley's motion for summary judgment and granted Fox Chase's motion, finding that Barley was judicially estopped from pursuing her ADA claim for discrimination and failure to accommodate because those claims were inconsistent with her position in her Social Security Administration (" SSA" ) proceedings for disability benefits. Barley, 2014 WL 4375486 at *15. We also held that Barley could not establish a prima facie claim of retaliation because she could not show the requisite causal link as a matter of law based on temporal proximity between her protected activity and her termination, or a pattern of antagonism or on the record as a whole. Id. at *17.
Nineteen days after our decision, Fox Chase filed a 126-page motion for attorney's fees that included a June 12, 2014 letter to Barley's counsel, a Declaration from a Littler Mendelson attorney in support of the application and 105 pages of Littler Mendelson invoices in which every line describing the legal services rendered was redacted. That same day, Fox Chase also filed a motion for sanctions under Rule 11, based both on its counsel's June 12, 2014 letter advising Barley's counsel that she had taken a position inconsistent with the present litigation in her SSA hearing and on its second deposition of Barley on June 25, 2014. In support of its motion, Fox Chase asserted, inter alia, that it " need not comply with all the procedural requirements" of Rule 11 as doing so " would be impractical." Mot. for sanctions under Rule 11 at 7. Fox Chase also included the June 12, 2014 letter and seven pages of billing statements from which, again, every description of services rendered had been redacted.
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On October 15, 2014, Barley filed her responses in opposition to both motions contending that Fox Chase is not entitled to attorney's fees and asking us to sanction Littler Mendelson for procedural deficiencies and for unreasonably and vexatiously multiplying the ...