Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Matson v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

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

July 26, 2018

MARY MATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Mary Matson's ("Plaintiff) Second Petition for Fees and Costs. Dkt. #271. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART Plaintiffs Second Fee Petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In September 2010, Plaintiff brought a state court action under Washington's Law Against Discrimination ("WLAD") against her former employer UPS. Dkt. # 1. UPS removed the action to federal court based on diversity of citizenship. Id. The Court granted UPS's motion for summary judgment on Matson's race discrimination, race-based hostile work environment, and wrongful discharge claims. Dkt. # 70.

         This matter then went to trial for the first time. After the first trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of UPS on Plaintiffs claims for discrimination and retaliation. Dkt. # 125. The jury found, however, that UPS subjected Plaintiff to a hostile work environment on the basis of her gender and awarded Plaintiff $500, 000 in emotional damages. Id.

         On August 2, 2012, Plaintiff filed the First Fee Petition and requested fees and costs accrued between February 12, 2011 and August 2, 2012. Dkt. # 129. Plaintiff then requested a fee multiplier of 1.5. Id. On August 16, 2012, UPS filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b). Dkt. # 145. The Court granted UPS's motion for a new trial on the ground that the gender-based hostile work environment claim was preempted under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Dkt. # 145. In doing so, the Court terminated Plaintiff's First Fee Petition as moot. Id.

         After the second trial, the jury found in favor of UPS on the hostile work environment claim, awarding Plaintiff no damages. Dkt. # 234. Plaintiff appealed. Dkt. #241. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the Court's preemption finding. Matson v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 840 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2016) (No. 13-36174). The Court of Appeals reinstated the jury verdict from the first trial and remanded the matter "for reconsideration of the damages question." Id. at 1137.

         On November 3, 2017, this Court granted Plaintiff's request to reinstate the initial jury verdict of $500, 000 from the first trial. Dkt. # 266. The Court ruled that its prior finding of excessive damages rested on the assumption of preemption, which had then been found erroneous by the Ninth Circuit. Id. When including the evidence related to "extra work" assignments, the Court found that there was sufficient proof for the jury to arrive at its award. Id. Accordingly, on January 29, 2018, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. Dkt. # 277.

         On December 11, 2017, Plaintiff moved to recover its fees and petitions for the period between August 2, 2012 and December 12, 2017, reflecting post-trial motions and the second trial. Dkt. #271. In this Second Fee Petition, Plaintiff requests a fee multiplier of 2.0. Id. UPS opposed and Plaintiff filed a Reply. Dkt. ## 275, 278.

         Plaintiff had also moved to recover attorneys' fees and costs on appeal before the Ninth Circuit. See Matson v. United Parcel Service, Inc., Case. No. 13-36174, Dkt. # 47-1. On March 7, 2018, the Court of Appeals awarded attorneys' fees and non-taxable costs in the amount of $218, 355.75 to Plaintiff. Dkt. # 280.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Where the court exercises jurisdiction over state law claims, it generally relies on state law regarding the recovery of attorney fees. MRO Communications, Inc. v. AT & T Co., 197 F.3d 1276, 1281 (9th Cir.1999). The WLAD provides for an award of "the cost of suit including reasonable attorneys' fees" to the prevailing party. RCW 49.60.030(2).

         A. Plaintiffs Are Entitled to Fees From the Second Trial

         Where the court exercises jurisdiction over state law claims, it generally relies on state law regarding the recovery of attorney fees. MRO Communications, Inc. v. AT & T Co., 197 F.3d 1276, 1281 (9th Cir.1999). The WLAD provides for an award of "the cost of suit including reasonable attorneys' fees" to the prevailing party. RCW 49.60.030(2).

         The parties first dispute whether Plaintiff is entitled to any fees related to the second trial. A plaintiff prevails when she obtains actual relief which materially modifies the defendant's behavior in a way that directly benefits the plaintiff. Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111-12, 121 L.Ed.2d 494, 113 S.Ct. 566 (1992). The plaintiff must obtain an enforceable judgment against the defendant from whom fees are sought. Farrar, 506 U.S. at 110 (1992) (citing Hewitt v. Helms, 482 U.S. 755, 760 (1987)). Moreover, a plaintiff need not succeed on all claims to achieve prevailing party status, as "[i]t is enough that plaintiffs received some of the benefit they sought in bringing the suit." Clark v. City of Los Angeles, 803 F.2d 987, 989 (9th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted). Under Washington law, "[determination of which party is the prevailing party, whether for the purpose of awarding costs or attorney fees, is made on the basis of which party has an affirmative judgment rendered in his favor at the conclusion of the entire case." Moritzkyv. Heberlein, 40 Wash.App. 181, 183, 697 P.2d 1023, 1024-25 (1985). Similarly, for purposes of the WLAD, a plaintiff prevails when she succeeds in achieving the benefit sought in bringing the suit. Wheeler v. Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, 124 Wash.2d 634, 643, 880 P.2d 29, 34 (1994).

         UPS argues that UPS, not Plaintiff, is the "prevailing party" under the WLAD because Plaintiff did not win at the second trial. Dkt. # 375 at 2-4. The Court disagrees. Plaintiff ultimately won on her hostile work environment claim, as the jury verdict of $500, 000 against UPS has been reinstated. Dkt. # 277. Plaintiff is thus the "prevailing party" on this claim, even if she was temporarily unsuccessful for the time period between the second trial verdict and the Ninth Circuit Opinion. Cf. Cabrales v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 935 F.2d 1050, 1053 (9th Cir. 1991) ("[A] plaintiff who is unsuccessful at a stage of litigation that was a necessary step to her ultimate victory is entitled to attorney's fees even for the unsuccessful stage.").

         Although the parties do not cite a Ninth Circuit or Washington case that is directly on point, Plaintiff cites to multiple authorities from other Circuits that have permitted attorneys' fees to be awarded to the prevailing party for multiple trials, "so long as 'the plaintiffs unreasonable behavior did not cause' the need for multiple proceedings and as long as counsel's time was reasonably expended." Waldo v. Consumers Energy Co., 726 F.3d 802, 826 (6th Cir. 2013); see also Abner v. Kan. City S. Ry. Co., 541 F.3d 372, 380 (5th Cir. 2008) (permitting party to recover fees for trial voided through no fault of party, noting that "[r]ather than looking at each trial in isolation, it is appropriate for a district court... to focus on the ultimate result of the case."); Shott v. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Med. Ctr., 338 F.3d 736, 740 (7th Cir. 2003) (holding that when the plaintiff is not responsible for the need of a second trial, the plaintiff may be compensated for time on both proceedings). Plaintiff also cites a 9th Circuit case that held that in a situation where the Plaintiff won the first trial, but was awarded nominal fees in the second trial, and the first jury verdict was reinstated with instructions that "the fee award should be based on the first jury's damages award." Silver Sage Partners, LTD v. City of Desert Hot Springs, 251 F.3d 814, 826 (9th Cir. 2001).

         The Court finds these authorities persuasive. UPS attempts to distinguish these cases by arguing that in each case the plaintiff won at the second trial. Dkt. # 275 at 5-6. While this observation is technically true, it does not appear to be legally significant, as it does not change the fact that in each case the court awarded attorney's fees to the ultimate prevailing party, as Plaintiff is here. Plaintiffs' fees costs associated with post-trial motions and the second trial were legitimate and not borne through any unreasonable behavior on the part of Plaintiff. The Court believes that it would be unfair to deny Plaintiff recovery of fees and costs that arose through no fault of her own. The Court also finds that permitting Plaintiff to recover the costs associated with the second trial, which only concerned the hostile work environment claim on which Plaintiff was ultimately successful, is more in line with the directives and policy goals of WLAD, where Washington courts allow "liberal recovery of costs by the prevailing party in civil rights litigation, in order to further the policies underlying these civil rights statutes." Blair v. Wash. St. Univ., 740 P.2d 1379, 1387 (Wash. 1987).

         Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to fees and costs associated with the second trial.

         B. The Court Grants In Part Plaintiffs Requested Fees

         In Washington, courts use the lodestar method to determine a reasonable attorney fee award. Mahler v. Szucs, 135 Wash.2d 398, 957 P.2d 632, 650-51 (1998). The Court must determine a lodestar by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate or rates by the number of hours reasonably expended in the litigation. Id. at 651. The party seeking fees bears the burden of proof. Id.

         1. Reasonable Rate

         Determining a reasonable hourly rate requires the Court to consider the attorney's usual fee, the attorney's level of skill and experience, the amount of the recovery, and the "undesuability of the case." Bowers v. Transamerica Title Ins. Co.,100 Wash.2d 581, 675 P.2d 193, 203 (1983). The Court can also consider the customary hourly rates in the local area, the effect of the case on the attorney's availability for other work, whether the case is particularly complex or difficult, and a host of other factors. Mahler, 957 P.2d at 651 n. 20. The presumptive reasonable hourly rate for an attorney is the rate the attorney charges. Broyles v. Thurston Cty.,195 P.3d 985, 1004 (Wash.Ct.App. 2008). The applicable geographic area for determining a reasonable hourly rate for Plaintiffs' counsel is the entire ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.