United States District Court, D. Delaware
TAMRAN. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
FIRST STATE COMMUNITY ACTION AGENCY, Defendant.
Robinson, Plaintiff, filed this action against First State
Community Action Agency, Defendant, alleging violations of
the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").
Plaintiff asserted that: (1) Defendant regarded her as
dyslexic yet failed to engage in an interactive process to
provide her with reasonable accommodations; and (2) Defendant
terminated her because she was regarded as dyslexic. On
December 8, 2016, "judgment [was] entered in favor of
[Defendant] on the ADA 'termination' claim; and . ..
judgment in the amount of twenty-two thousand five hundred
one dollars ($22, 501) [was] entered in favor of [Plaintiff]
on the ADA 'interactive process' claim." (D.I.
the Court is Defendant's motion for a new trial. (D.I.
82). Defendant moves under two theories: 1) the jury was
prejudiced by hearing inadmissible testimony about the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") findings
in favor of Plaintiff, and 2) the jury was instructed on the
statutory cap on punitive damages in contravention of federal
law. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is
before the Court is Plaintiffs motion for attorneys'
fees, legal expenses, and costs. (D.I. 81). As the prevailing
party, Plaintiff seeks recovery of attorneys' fees under
42 U.S.C. § 12205. (Id.). Plaintiff requests an
award of a lodestar in the amount of $150, 412, and for
litigation costs and expenses in the amount of $2, 637.28,
representing the amounts incurred through January 3, 2017.
(Id. ¶ 15). In Plaintiffs reply, Plaintiff
requests that $17, 876.72 be added to the lodestar for
attorneys' fees incurred between January 3, 2017 and
January 24, 2017. (D.I. 85 at 8). Thus, Plaintiffs total
request is attorneys' fees of $168, 288.72 and costs of
$2, 637.28. (Id.). For the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiffs motion is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1)(A) provides, in pertinent
part: "The court may, on motion, grant a new trial on
all or some of the issues-and to any party- ... after a jury
trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore
been granted in an action at law in federal court...."
Among the most common reasons for granting a new trial are:
(1) the jury's verdict is against the clear weight of the
evidence, and a new trial must be granted to prevent a
miscarriage of justice; (2) newly discovered evidence exists
that would likely alter the outcome of the trial; (3)
improper conduct by an attorney or the court unfairly
influenced the verdict; or (4) the jury's verdict was
facially inconsistent. Zarow-Smith v. N.J. Transit Rail
Operations, Inc., 953 F.Supp. 581, 584-85 (D.N.J. 1997).
decision to grant or deny a new trial is committed to the
sound discretion of the district court. Allied Chem.
Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33, 36 (1980);
Olefins Trading, Inc. v. Han Yang Chem. Corp., 9
F.3d 282, 289 (3d Cir. 1993). Although the standard for
granting a new trial is less rigorous than the standard for
granting judgment as a matter of law-in that the Court need
not view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
verdict winner-a new trial should only be granted where
"a miscarriage of justice would result if the verdict
were to stand, " the verdict "cries out to be
overturned, " or where the verdict "shocks [the]
conscience." Williamson v. Consol. Rail Corp.,
926 F.2d 1344, 1352-53 (3d Cir. 1991).
THE EEOC TESTIMONY
Defendant's motion for a new trial, Defendant contends
that Defendant was prejudiced by Plaintiffs testimony that
the EEOC found in her favor. (D.I. 82). Defendant also argues
that Plaintiffs counsel intentionally elicited the statement
from Plaintiff. (D.I. 86 ¶ 1).
first day of the trial, Plaintiff testified that she filed a
complaint with the EEOC and that the EEOC ruled in her favor.
(D.I. 87 at 3).
Q. After you were terminated, what did you do next?
A. I filed a Complaint with the EEOC, the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and filed for unemployment.
Q. The EEOC, to your understanding, what is that they do?
A. They, I guess, help support those who feel like they were
discriminated against with regard to a disability.
Q. Why did you go to them?
A. To get backing in regards to the evaluation and me doing -
show them the evaluation was sufficient enough for a defense.
Q. What happened next?
A. The EEOC ruled in my favor.
(Id.) Defendant objected, and I called counsel to
sidebar. (Id.). Defendant requested a mistrial,
which I denied. (Id. at 4). I told the parties trial
was going to move forward, but I asked Defendant's
counsel if there was something else she would like me to do.
(Id. at 6). Defense counsel made no suggestions in
response. I struck the question and answer and instructed the
jurors to disregard what they had heard and to not rely on it
for anything. (Id. at 8).
Members of the jury, you may recall at the beginning of the
trial I said I might have to strike some testimony and tell
you to disregard what you heard. The last question and
answer, I am striking that testimony, and you have to
disregard what you heard. You ...