United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
V. S. GRANADE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for
attorneys' fees (Doc. 66) and their motion to re-tax
costs (Doc. 68). Plaintiff did not file any response, and the
motions are ripe for resolution. After carefully considering
the motions and the attendant evidence, the Court concludes
that the motions are due to be GRANTED in part.
filed a complaint against Defendants Bishop State Community
College ("Bishop State") and Alabama Community
College System ("ACCS"), asserting a claim for race
discrimination under Title VII.(Doc. 1). After the conclusion of
discovery, Defendants "offered to forego their request
for attorneys' fees and costs if Plaintiff would
voluntardy dismiss the action with prejudice within seven
days." (Doc. 66-1, ¶ 3). Plaintiff did not respond
to this offer and opted, instead, to file discovery sanctions
against Defendants. Id. The Court denied his motion
for sanctions. (Doc. 45).
filed a motion for summary judgment, which Plaintiff opposed.
(See Docs. 46, 54). After due consideration, the
Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment as
to the sole discrimination claim on November 4, 2016 and
entered judgment in their favor that day. (See Docs.
seek an award of fees and costs as follows:
Attorneys' Fees through October 31, 2016:
Original Deposition of Plaintiff
Copy of Lyons Deposition and Exhibits
Copy of Thompson Deposition and Exhibits
Copy of Mitchell Deposition
Subtotal of Costs
(See Docs. 66-1, ¶ 4; 68-1, ¶ 2).
Motion for Attorneys' Fees
When an Award of Attorneys' Fees is Appropriate
any action proceeding under [Title VII], the court, in its
discretion, may allow the prevailing party ... a reasonably
attorney's fee (including expert fees) as part of the
costs . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k). Defendants
seek an award pursuant to this provision. Although
"attorney's fees are typically awarded to successful
Title VII plaintiffs as a matter of course, prevailing
defendants may receive attorney's fees only when the
plaintiffs case is 'frivolous, unreasonable, or without
foundation, ' even though not brought in subjective bad
faith." Quintana v. Jenne, 414 F.3d 1306, 1309
(11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Christiansburg Garment Co. v.
EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 421-22, 98 S.Ct. 694, 54 L.Ed.2d 648
(1978)). To make this determination, the district court must
examine "whether (1) the plaintiff established a
prima facie case; (2) the defendant offered to settle;
and (3) the trial court dismissed the case prior to
trial." Bonner v. Mobile Energy Servs. Co.,
L.L.C., 246 F.3d 1303, 1304 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing
Sullivan v. Sch. Bd. of Pinellas Cnty., 773 F.2d
1182, 1189 (11th Cir. 1985)). The Eleventh Circuit cautions,
"[determinations regarding frivolity are to be made on a
case-by-case basis." Sullivan, 773 F.2d at
Court addresses the second and third factors first, noting
that Defendants "offered to forego their request for
attorney's fees and costs if Plaintiff would voluntarily
dismiss the action with prejudice within seven days.
(See Doc. 66-l, ¶ 3). Plaintiff failed to
respond to the offer and "instead filed a motion for
discovery sanctions, " which was denied. Id.
Defendants' attempt to settle the case, though ultimately
unsuccessful, weighs against Plaintiff. Additionally, the
Court awarded summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiffs
single claim prior to a trial on the merits, which
constitutes another factor weighing against Plaintiff.
See Young v. Int'l Paper Co., No. 10-179-CG-N,
2012 WL 37647, at *3 (S.D. Ala. Jan. 6, 2012).
to the first Sullivan factor, the Court notes
Plaintiff failed to set forth & prima facie case
of his racial discrimination claim against both Defendants.
Notably, the Court determined Plaintiff abandoned his claim
against ACCS completely by failing to oppose Defendants'
arguments or even mentioning ACCS. (See Doc. 63, p.
20). As to his claim against Bishop State, Plaintiff
established he was a member of a protected class and that he
suffered an adverse employment action; he failed, however, to
present a "comparator" or a "replacement
employee" in his case. See Id. at pp. 22-23. In
addition, Plaintiff failed to present any material evidence
of racial animus or discriminatory intent. Id. at
25. Thus, the Court concluded Plaintiff failed to establish
& prima facie case against Bishop State.
the three Sullivan factors weigh in favor of
Defendants' recovery of reasonable attorney's fees,
and no factors indicate a discount is appropriate or
otherwise required. Compare with Young, 2012 WL
37647 at *3-4.