Daughtry v. Army Fleet Support LLC et al
OPINION AND ORDER that the 158 & 166 Motions for Attorney's Fees and Expenses, filed by dft Army Fleet Support, LLC, are denied. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 2/5/2014. (wcl, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, SOUTHERN DIVISION
RORY M. DAUGHTRY,
ARMY FLEET SUPPORT, LLC,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
OPINION AND ORDER
Defendant Army Fleet Support, LLC filed motions for
attorney’s fees and expenses after this court entered
summary judgment in its favor.
Because plaintiff Rory M.
without foundation, the motions will be denied.
Daughtry brought this action against a number of
He alleged, among other things,
that Army Fleet violated the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA), as amended (42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-12117), by
failing to provide him with a reasonable accommodation
following a shoulder injury.
In particular, Daughtry,
who was employed as an aircraft mechanic, was for a time
assigned to a special mechanic duty known as “parts-turnin,” which in essence consisted of receiving and shelving
The accommodation he sought was continued
assignment to that duty, even after a change in military
policy resulted in parts-turn-in positions being filled
by only mechanics who had greater seniority than Daughtry
This court granted summary judgment to the defendants
on all of Daughtry’s claims.
Daughtry v. Army Fleet
In its opinion, the court found that
defendant Army Fleet had satisfied its obligations under
the ADA and that, in order to place Daughtry in the
“parts-turn-in” position he desired, Army Fleet would
have needed either to create a new position for him or to
violate its agreement with Daughtry’s union regarding
hiring by seniority.
The ADA, this court concluded, did
not require Army Fleet to take either action.
the existence of a reasonable accommodation is an element
of an ADA plaintiff’s prima facie case, Daughtry failed
to carry his initial burden.
The court then considered, and rejected, various
evidence and arguments offered by Daughtry.
things, the court acknowledged the persuasive potential
in Daughtry’s argument that another individual had been
accommodated in a parts-turn-in position far longer than
Daughtry had; however, the court ultimately rejected the
considered and rejected a number of arguments because
mischaracterized the evidence presented in support of
Army Fleet subsequently filed a motion for attorney’s
fees and expenses pursuant to the fee-shifting provision
of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12205.
Motion for Attorney’s
Fees (Doc. No. 158).
Army Fleet later amended its motion
to correct an error.
Amended Motion for Attorney’s Fees
(Doc. No. 166).
It seeks a total of $ 218,337.50 in
attorney’s fees and expenses, exclusive of expenses it
seeks through a bill of costs separately filed with the
42 U.S.C. § 12205 provides that, in an action under
the ADA, “the court ... in its discretion, may allow the
including litigation expenses, and costs.”
Opportunity Comm'n, 434 U.S. 412 (1978) (interpreting
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981a, 2000e to
2000e–17), the Eleventh Circuit has interpreted § 12205
Bruce v. City of Gainesville,
Ga., 177 F.3d 949, 951 (11th Cir. 1999).
Under Bruce, a prevailing defendant is not entitled
to fees as a matter of course.
Rather, as is generally
the case with civil-rights statutes, a court should grant
fees to a prevailing defendant in an ADA case only if the
The Bruce court noted that in
Christianberg the Supreme Court emphasized that “it is
not enough that the plaintiff had ultimately lost his
The Supreme Court cautioned courts to
“‘resist the understandable temptation to engage in post
hoc reasoning by concluding that, because a plaintiff did
unreasonable or without foundation’” because “‘[t]his
kind of hindsight logic could discourage all but the most
Id. (quoting Christianberg, 434 U.S.
As the Supreme Court noted, “‘seldom can a
prospective plaintiff be sure of ultimate success,’” and
“‘the course of litigation is rarely predictable.’”
(quoting Christianberg, 434 U.S. at 422).
frivolous, the court looks in part to three factors:
“‘(1) whether the plaintiff established a prima facie
case; (2) whether the defendant offered to settle; and
(3) whether the trial court dismissed the case prior to
trial or held a full-blown trial on the merits.’” Id.
(quoting Sullivan v. School Board of Pinellas County, 773
F.2d 1182, 1189 (11th Cir. 1985)).
However, these are
only factors; the determination of frivolity must be made
on a case-by-case basis.
Id. at 952.
In this case, the court notes that Daughtry did not
establish a prima-facie case and that the court entered
summary judgment without a trial.
failure to carry his initial burden was not a result of
contentions that were “absolutely incredible, and pure
Id. (internal quotation omitted).
different evidence, his request to be kept in a partsturn-in
accommodation under the ADA.
Indeed, Daughtry offered
accommodated in just the manner that he requested.
account of the other employee’s greater seniority, it
also acknowledged the argument’s persuasive potential.
Thus, the fact that in the end Daughtry and his attorneys
could not marshal sufficient evidence to defeat summary
judgment does not mean that his case was frivolous from
His case clearly was not “airtight,” and he
obviously could not have been “sure of ultimate success”
at the outset.
Christianberg, 434 U.S. at 421-2.
neither was this a hopeless claim.
The facts of Bruce are instructive.
plaintiff brought an ADA claim that he had been fired
because he was disabled after his hand had been crushed.
As it turned out, he apparently had not been fired at
all, and shortly thereafter he was assigned to a new job.
Thus Bruce, like Daughtry, could not establish a primafacie case of discrimination to survive summary judgment.
Bruce, 177 F.3d at 953 (Magill, J., dissenting) (“Bruce
failed to establish fundamental elements required to make
out a prima facie case on each” of his ADA claims).
Nevertheless, the court found that his suit was not “so
frivolous lawsuit from the outset.”
Id. at 952.
the contention which Daughtry in the end could not prove,
that there was an available reasonable accommodation, was
far more debatable than the determination of whether or
not Bruce had been terminated.
If the claim in Bruce was
not frivolous, it is clear to this court that Daughtry’s
was not either.
This court also sees no other basis on which to find
this litigation frivolous.
As to the second factor,
stated in its motion for fees only that there had been
unsuccessful mediation in this matter.
There is no
settlement which might suggest its liability; but neither
is there any indication that plaintiff rejected a fair
Finally, the court acknowledges that this litigation
was frustrating for the defendants and their attorneys,
incomprehensibility of many of Daughtry’s filings, and
the disturbing pattern of their mischaracteriation of
Daughtry’s attorneys rather than Daughtry himself.
filings are improper, the appropriate remedy is generally
Rule 11 sanctions, not attorney’s fees for frivolous
The guidance of the Supreme Court and the Eleventh
Circuit on this issue is clear.
In civil-rights cases,
because they do not finally prevail would ... undercut
enforcement” of those laws.
Christianberg, 434 U.S. at
Like the court in Bruce, this court cannot say that
Daughtry’s case was “so lacking in merit that the filing
and maintaining of the lawsuit deserved an award of
attorney's fees for the defendant.”
177 F.3d at 952.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED that the motions for
attorney’s fees and expenses (doc. nos. 158 and 166),
filed by defendant Army Fleet Support, LLC, are denied.
DONE, this the 5th day of February, 2014.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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