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Bailey v. Alpha Technologies Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

January 2, 2018

YVETTE BAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ALPHA TECHNOLOGIES INCORPORATED, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Grace Borsari's motion to enter judgment on her counterclaim (Dkt. No. 106). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I.BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Yvette Bailey (“Bailey”) sued her former employers alleging, among other things, that she was wrongfully terminated in violation of public policy. (Dkt. No. 30 at 13.) Defendant Grace Borsari (“Borsari”) made a counterclaim alleging Bailey breached three promissory notes when she failed to repay $6, 400 Borsari had loaned her. (Dkt. No. 31 at 10.) On September 17, 2017, the Court issued a partial order for summary judgment, dismissing all but one of Bailey's claims against Defendants and granting summary judgment in favor of Borsari on her breach of contract counterclaim. (Dkt. No. 60 at 14-15.) The Court did not issue a separate judgment for any of the claims it resolved on summary judgment.

         The parties proceeded to trial on Bailey's remaining claim. At the close of Bailey's case, the Court granted Defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law. (Dkt. No. 99.) On November 14, 2017, the Court entered a judgment which stated: “In accordance with the Court's summary judgment Order dated September 19, 2017 and the Court's Order granting Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law dated November 14, 2017, Plaintiff's claims are dismissed with prejudice as to all Defendants.” (Dkt. No. 100.) The judgment did not reference Borsari's counterclaim. (Id.) Borsari filed the present motion on December 13, 2017, asking the Court to enter a final judgment on her counterclaim. (Dkt. No. 106.) Based on the terms of the promissory notes, Borsari seeks the unpaid principle ($6, 400), pre-judgment interest ($720), and reasonable attorney fees ($5000), for a total of $12, 120. (Id. at 3.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Bailey argues that the Court should not award Borsari attorney fees because her motion is untimely. (Dkt. No. 112 at 2.)[1] Bailey asserts that the Court's summary judgment order issued in September represented a final judgment on Borsari's counterclaim. (Id.) Because the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a motion for attorney fees to be filed within 14 days of judgment, Bailey argues that Borsari failed to timely move for attorney fees. (Id. at 2-3.) Borsari counters that the Court never entered a final judgment on her counterclaim because its summary judgment order did not include a separate judgment and the Court's post-trial judgment only addressed Bailey's claims. (Dkt. No. 106 at 3-4.)

         A. Timeliness of Borsari's Motion for Attorney Fees

         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a judgment “includes a decree and any order from which an appeal lies.” Fed R. Civ. P. 54(a). Except in circumstances not applicable to this case, “[e]very judgment and amended judgment must be set out in a separate document.” Fed. R.

         Civ. P. 58(a). A motion for attorney fees must “be filed no later than 14 days after the entry of judgment” unless a statute or court order provides otherwise. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2).

         Applying the above rules to this case, the Court concludes that a final judgment has not been entered on Borsari's counterclaim, and her motion for attorney fees is therefore timely. The Court's summary judgment order did not represent a judgment because it was not set out in a separate document, and the Court did not expressly state in its order that its grant of summary judgment on Borsari's counterclaim represented a final judgment. Bailey's assertion that the Court's summary judgment order represents a final judgment conflicts with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) which states in pertinent part:

when an action presents more than one claim for relief . . . or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.

         The Court's summary judgment order did not represent a final judgment because it neither adjudicated all of the parties' claims nor expressly stated that it was directing final judgment on Borsari's counterclaim. In addition, the Court's post-trial judgment does not represent a final judgment of Borsari's counterclaim because the judgment only made reference to Bailey's claims against the Defendants.[2] In the face of this silence, Borsari appropriately filed her motion for final judgment on her counterclaim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 58(d) (“[a] party may request that judgment be set out in a separate document as required by Rule 58(a)”). Since the Court has not entered a final judgment, Borsari's motion for attorney fees is timely. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2).

         B. Reasonableness ...


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