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Murray v. Miron

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 19, 2016

ELLEN MURRAY
v.
JAMES MIRON, Individually, and in his official capacity as Mayor of the Town of Stratford

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES (DKT. #275)

          JOAN GLAZER MARGOLIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Familiarity with this litigation is presumed.[1] On February 2, 2016, the jury trial in this case commenced, and was held on February 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12, 2016.[2] (Dkts. ##250, 252, 254, 257-59). On the seventh trial day, February 12, 2016, the jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant, finding that plaintiff did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that her First Amendment-protected union affiliation and/or union activities were a substantial motivating factor in defendant James Miron's decision not to promote her to the position of Deputy Fire Chief. (Dkt. #265). Judgment entered on February 26, 2016 (Dkt. #266), and on April 19, 2016, plaintiff's Motion for a New Trial was denied. (Dkt. #274; see Dkts. ##270, 272-73).

         On May 4, 2016, defendant filed the pending Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees (Dkt. #275), [3] pursuant to this Court's order in the Ruling on Multiple Motions in Limine, filed July 25, 2014 (Dkt. #154)["July 2014 Ruling"], which provided: "Defendant may submit a Motion for Attorney's Fees to recover fees spent on this motion [in limine (Dkt. #124)] and the reply brief [Dkt. #149], and for a reasonable number of hours spent preparing for his response to plaintiff's damages claim." 2014 WL 3700982, at *12 (citation omitted). On June 8, 2016, plaintiff filed her brief in opposition to defendant's Motion (Dkt. #278; see also Dkts. ##276-77), and two weeks later, defendant filed his reply brief. (Dkt. #279).

         For the reasons stated below, defendant's Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Dkt. #275) is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. DISCUSSION

         A. BACKGROUND

         As addressed in the July 2014 Ruling, defendant Miron sought to preclude plaintiff from presenting evidence of compensatory damages because she failed to provide such information to defendants, and the Damages Analysis that plaintiff provided to defendant on September 29, 2011 did "not comport with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1)(A)(iii)[.]" 2014 WL 3700982, at *9. As this Court explained in that Ruling, Rule 26 "requires that a plaintiff [-] as best as the party is able at an early stage in the case -- . . . provide a computation of each category of damages and . . . produce the documents on which that computation is based." Id. (multiple citations & internal quotations omitted). After finding that plaintiff's "failure to provide the computation and basis for her claimed compensatory damages [was] a violation of Rule 26[, ]" this Court addressed the appropriate sanction to impose under Rule 37(c)(1). Id. at *10-11. This Court concluded that there was "no evidence that plaintiff or her counsel acted in bad faith or willfully, " but that defendant was prejudiced by plaintiff's failure to comply with Rule 26(a), in that defendant was "deprived . . . the opportunity to be informed of, and to prepare his response to, plaintiff's damages claim." Id. at 11 (footnote omitted). Accordingly, the Court held:

"Even where preclusion is not ordered under Rule 37, it is generally appropriate, at a minimum, to require a party who has not complied with its discovery obligations to pay the reasonable fees and costs incurred by the moving party in seeking disclosure and/or in seeking discovery sanctions." Ritchie Risk-Linked Strategies [Trading (Ireland), Ltd. v. Coventry First LLC], 280 F.R.D. [147, ] 157 [(S.D.N.Y. 2012)] (multiple citations omitted). Defendant may submit a Motion for Attorney's Fees to recover fees spent on this motion and the reply brief, and for a reasonable number of hours spent preparing for his response to plaintiff's damages claim. See id. ("Monetary sanctions are appropriate to punish the offending party for its actions [and] to deter the litigant's conduct, sending the message that egregious conduct will not be tolerated.")(citations & internal quotations omitted).

Id. at *12 (emphasis added).

         The sanction ordered in the July 2014 Ruling was ordered pursuant to Rule 37(c)(1), for a discovery violation under Rule 26(a)(1). The sanction imposed was directed to the briefing associated with defendant's Motion in Limine, and defendant's anticipated response to the production by plaintiff of a Damages Analysis in compliance with Rule 26(a).

         However, in his pending motion, defendant "does not claim" the time expended by Attorney Christopher Ciancanelli in preparing the original Motion in Limine, and he "expressly waives" the time spent by Attorney John-Henry Steele in preparing the reply brief. (Dkt. #275, at 1). Thus, the only amount of fees at issue in this pending motion is the amount of fees "for a reasonable number of hours spent preparing for [defendant's] response to plaintiff's damages claim." 2014 WL 3700982, at *12. The July 2014 Ruling ordered plaintiff's Amended Damages Analysis to be produced nine days later, on August 4, 2014. Id. at *11.

         As discussed in previous rulings, the course of the case changed on July 29, 2014, four days after the Court's July 2014 Ruling was filed. On that date, counsel advised the Court that they were just recently made aware that defendant Miron had a bankruptcy matter pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Bridgeport. See In re James R. Miron, No. 13-50950 (see Dkts. ##158-59). Six days later, this Magistrate Judge issued an Order Administratively Closing File Pending Further Action in Bankruptcy Court (Dkt. #160); the deadline for the submission of plaintiff's Amended Damages Analysis was implicitly held in abeyance.

         Following the reopening of the case on November 13, 2014 (see Dkts. ##164-66), on February 12, 2015, this Court ruled on plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of the July 2014 Ruling, and Motion for Leave to Amend her complaint. Ruling on Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and on Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Dkt. #180) ["February 2015 Ruling"], 2015 WL 630957 (D. Conn. Feb. 12, 2015). In her Motion for Reconsideration, plaintiff sought reconsideration of this Court's holding, precluding evidence as to plaintiff's claim of constructive discharge and her claim for future damages; in her Motion for Leave to Amend her complaint, plaintiff sought to add a claim for emotional distress damages. (See Dkts. ##169, 177). The February 2015 Ruling denied both of plaintiff's motions; the underlying briefing and the February 2015 Ruling had no effect on the Court's previous sanction order in the July 2014 Ruling which was directed towards plaintiff's failure to submit a substantiated damages analysis for her claim for compensatory damages. Thereafter, plaintiff submitted her Amended Damages Analysis on March 3, 2015. (See Dkt. #279, at 2).

         B. PENDING MOTION FOR ...


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