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Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO v. Sheridan Broadcasting Networks

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

October 16, 2019

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD - AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TELEVISION AND RADIO ARTISTS, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIDAN BROADCASTING NETWORKS, SHERIDAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, RONALD DAVENPORT, JR., and RONALD DAVENPORT, SR, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER, Re: ECF No. 58

          Maureen P. Kelly Magistrate Judge

         Presently before the Court is the Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Punitive Damages (the "Motion") filed by Plaintiff Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, (referred to as the "Union"). ECF No. 58.[1] Defendants Sheridan Broadcasting Networks, Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation, Ronald Davenport, Jr. and Ronald Davenport, Sr. (referred to collectively as the "Defendants") have filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Punitive Damages and Attorneys' Fees. ECF No. 60. The instant Motion is now ripe for consideration.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Union brought this action on behalf of regular full-time and part-time newspersons, audio journalists, and producers formerly employed by Sheridan Broadcasting Networks ("SBN"), in an effort to obtain earned unpaid wages, unreimbursed expenses and related damages deemed owing in an arbitration filed against SBN. The Union alleged liability pursuant to the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, as amended ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185(c), and asserted state law claims against Defendants SBN, Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation ("SBC"), Ronald Davenport, Jr., and Ronald Davenport, Sr. (the individual Davenport Defendants shall be referred to collectively as the "Davenport Defendants"). ECF No. 1. Specifically, the Union brought claims against SBN, its alter ego SBC, and the Davenport Defendants for (1) breach of contract arising out of Defendants' failure to comply with a collective bargaining agreement requirement to remit payment ordered pursuant to a properly entered arbitration award (Count I), (2) a claim for unpaid wages pursuant to the Pennsylvania . Wage Payment and Collection Law ("WPCL"), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 260 et seq., (Count II), and (3) a claim for conversion of Union dues deducted from employee wages but never remitted to SAG - AFTRA (Count III). Id. Although SBN admitted both liability and damages in the arbitration proceeding, Defendants filed an Answer in this case denying liability. ECF No. 7.

         The Union previously filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, ECF No. 38, requesting that this Court enter judgment in its favor as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and against each of the named Defendants. In the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, the Union claimed damages awarded in arbitration for unpaid wages, unpaid severance pay, pay due in lieu of written notice of termination, failure to implement a wage increase, failure to reimburse expenses, and failure to remit union dues withheld from employee paychecks.

         Defendants filed their brief in opposition to the motion, ECF No. 43. SBN/SBC conceded liability for all sums in awarded in arbitration and the Davenport Defendants conceded their personal responsibility for sums due and owing in the course of this litigation.

         Upon review, the Court granted the Union's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to the breach of contract claims, the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law claim, and the conversion claim. ECF No. 45. As such, the Court found that the Union was entitled to the damages claimed and awarded damages as set forth below.

Wages to be paid in lieu of notice of termination

$ 36, 343.29

Severance pay owed employees

$ 170, 685.12

Unpaid wages attributed to 3% wage increase

$ 2, 812.38

Wages owed to employees for the period August 16-31, 2017, and wraps and voices produced during August 2017

$ 18, 829.00

Clothing allowance, mileage, and other unreimbursed expenses

$ 9, 088.39

Union dues withheld and not remitted

$ 2, 293.09

Liquidated Damages of 25% of wages owed

$ 65, 165.53

TOTAL

$ 325, 827.64

Id. at 17. Accordingly, the Court found in favor of the Union and against Defendants Sheridan Broadcasting Networks, Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation, Ronald Davenport, Jr., and Ronald Davenport, Sr., and awarded a total of $325, 827.64 in damages. Id. at 18.

         The Union also sought punitive damages as well as attorney's fees and costs, which the Court held would be considered separately upon motion filed in support thereof The Court set the deadline for the filing of such a motion. Thereafter, the Union filed the instant Motion on July 8, 2019. ECF No. 58. Defendants filed a Response in Opposition on July 24, 2019. ECF No.

         II. ATTORNEYS' FEES

         In the instant Motion, as the prevailing party on the Pennsylvania WPCL claim, the Union seeks to be awarded a total of $50, 994.16 in attorneys' fees and costs, consisting of $45, 262.50 for legal services provided by Attorney Peter Demkovitz, $3, 780.00 in legal services provided by Attorney Jonathan Walters, and an award of $1, 951.66 for attorneys' costs and expenses. ECF No. 58 at 7.

         In support of the instant Motion, the Union asserts that the reasonable hourly rate for Attorney Demkovitz is $375.00 per hour, and for Attorney Walters is $450.00 per hour. ECF No. 58-1. The Union has submitted the affidavit of Attorney Walters, Id. at 1-4, and the statement of professional services, with an itemized breakdown of legal services rendered. Id. at 5-8.

         In the Response in Opposition, Defendants "do not take issue with the hourly rate or the invoice provided by the Plaintiffs." ECF No. 60 at 6. However, Defendants argue that an award of attorneys' fees should be limited to legal fees arising out of the WPCL claim. Id. As such, Defendants argue that of the $325, 827.24 that this Court awarded, only $237, 758.18 is attributable to the wage claim, which equates to 72.97% of the judgment amount. Id. Defendants argue that this percentage should be applied to the total amount ...


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