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HOGAN v. GENERAL ELEC. CO.

May 24, 2001

JOHN J. HOGAN AND DAVID J. REES, EACH INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY; STEPHEN D. HOLLENBERG, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY; AND RONALD R. PRESSMAN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurd, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. BACKGROUND

This action was brought pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621-34. Plaintiff Carmen LaPorta ("LaPorta" or plaintiff) has made a post-trial application for 1) pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, 2) attorneys fees, costs, and disbursements, 3) adoption of the jury's award of front pay, and 4) a judgment that defendant General Electric Company ("GE") willfully violated the ADEA as a matter of law. GE does not oppose plaintiffs motion for pre-judgment and post-judgment interest; however, it does oppose plaintiffs remaining requests. Oral argument was heard on May 11, 2001 in Utica, New York. Decision was reserved.

II. FACTS

Plaintiffs John Hogan ("Hogan") and David Rees ("Rees") filed an age discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in July 1996, alleging that GE violated the ADEA when it conducted an involuntary reduction in force in July 1995. The EEOC issued right to sue letters in December 1996. Hogan and Rees then commenced this action, asserting claims under the ADEA and the New York State Human Rights Law, ("HRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law § 296(6) (McKinney 1993 & Supp. 2000). Plaintiffs LaPorta and William Sheehan ("Sheehan") joined the action in June 1998 as "opt-in" plaintiffs under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Following discovery and motion practice, each plaintiffs claims of disparate impact and disparate treatment age discrimination and Hogan and Rees' HRL claims proceeded to trial.*fn1

On March 28, 2001, after a thirteen day jury trial, the jury found in favor of LaPorta on his disparate treatment age discrimination claim. However, the jury found in favor of GE with respect to 1) the plaintiffs' common claim of disparate impact age discrimination, 2) Hogan's, Rees', and Sheahan's disparate treatment claims, and 3) Hogan's and Rees' HRL claims. The jury awarded LaPorta $117,000 lost back pay and issued an advisory verdict of front pay in the amount of $110,000 payable over seventeen years.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Pre-judgment and Post-judgment Interest

Plaintiff seeks, and defendant does not oppose, an award of pre-judgment interest on his back pay award, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 626(b). "In an ADEA case, prejudgment interest is designed to compensate the plaintiff for loss of the use of money wrongfully withheld through an unlawful discharge." Reichman v. Bonsignore, Brignati & Mazzotta, P.C., 818 F.2d 278, 281 (2d Cir. 1987).

Determining the rate to apply for pre-judgment interest is a matter left to the discretion of the district court. See Endico Potatoes, Inc. v. CIT Group/Factoring, Inc., 67 F.3d 1063, 1071 (2d Cir. 1995). When calculating pre-judgment interest, courts in the Second Circuit "often apply the rate of interest provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1961." Robinson v. Instructional Sys., Inc., 80 F. Supp.2d 203, 208 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (citations omitted).*fn2 The plaintiff requests that pre-judgment interest be calculated according to § 1961. The defendant does not oppose.

The appropriate methodology to calculate the amount of pre-judgment interest involves three steps. "First, the award[] should be divided pro rata over the appropriate time period." Id. Second, the rate of interest referred to in § 1961 is applied. Id. Finally, the interest is compounded annually. Id.

In the present case, at the first step, the back pay award of $117,000 is divided by 70 months (July 1995 through May 2001). This results in $1,671.43 per month or $20,057.14 per year in back pay. The rate of interest according to the most recent publication by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is 3.76 percent. See Federal Reserve Statistical Release, Selected Interest Rates, at http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/H15 (May 21, 2001). Applying this rate and compounding the interest annually results in an award of $15,930.01 in prejudgment interest.*fn3 In addition, the judgment shall reflect a post-judgment interest rate of 3.76 percent, pursuant to § 1961.

B. Attorneys Fees

"The starting point for the determination of a reasonable fee is the calculation of the lodestar amount." Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co., 129 F.3d 702, 705 (2d Cir. 1997) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983)). The lodestar amount is calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. See Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 94, 109 S.Ct. 939, 103 L.Ed.2d 67 (1989). "In determining the number of hours reasonably expended for purposes of calculating the lodestar, the district court should exclude excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary hours, as well as hours dedicated to severable unsuccessful claims." Quaratino, 129 F.3d at 705. However, attorney's fees may be awarded for unsuccessful claim as well as successful ones where they are "`inextricably intertwined' and `involve a common core of facts or are based on related legal theories.'" Reed v. A.W. Lawrence & Co., 95 F.3d 1170, 1183 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Dominic v. Consolidated Edison Co., 822 F.2d 1249, 1259 (2d Cir. 1987). "Once the lodestar amount is calculated, there is a strong presumption that this figure constitutes a reasonable amount." Fauntleroy v. Staszak, 3 F. Supp.2d 234, 236 (N.D.N.Y. 1998) (citing Grant v. Martinez, 973 F.2d 96, 101 (2d Cir. 1992); City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 112 S.Ct. 2638, 120 L.Ed.2d 449 (1992)).

LaPorta seeks $319,607.00 in attorneys' fees and $9,094.74 in costs and disbursements, for a total of $328,701.74.*fn4 GE argues that the amount of attorneys' fees requested should be drastically reduced for several reasons. GE challenges the use of two attorneys for certain matters where it contends one attorney would have been sufficient. However, the Second Circuit has held that there is no per se rule against the use of multiple attorneys; however, the district court has discretion to decline to compensate or limit the compensation of collaborating attorneys. See New York State Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1146 (2d Cir. 1983). In light of the complexity ...


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