Parker v. Ethosenergy Power Plant Services, LLC, et al.

Filing 70

ORDER signed by Senior Judge William B. Shubb on 1/10/18 GRANTING 55 Motion for Attorney Fees. (Kaminski, H)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 ----oo0oo---- 12 13 PHILLIP PARKER, 14 Plaintiff, 15 16 17 Civ. No. 2:16-00238-WBS-AC v. ETHOSENERGY POWER PLANT SERVICES, LLC., et al., 18 ORDER RE: MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES Defendants. 19 20 ----oo0oo---- 21 Defendant John Wood Group, PLC (“John Wood”) asks the 22 23 court to exercise its discretion under 28 U.S.C. § 1927, Local 24 Rule 293, California Labor Code 12965(b), and Federal Rule of 25 Civil Procedure 37(c)(2) to award attorney’s fees following this 26 court’s order to grant John Wood’s Motion for summary judgment. 27 (Docket No. 49). 28 I. Factual and Procedural Background 1 1 Plaintiff Phillip Parker (“Parker”) sued EthosEnergy 2 Power Plant Service, LLC (“EthosEnergy”), his former employer, 3 alleging wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, 4 harassment, discrimination, and retaliation under the Fair 5 Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). 6 Wood as a defendant. 7 both defendants on October 4, 2017, and the case was dismissed 8 with prejudice. 9 II. Plaintiff also named John Summary judgment was granted in favor of (Docket No. 49.) Discussion 10 Federal courts have the inherent power to impose 11 sanctions. Zapata v. Flintco, Inc., Civ. No. 2:09-3555, 2012 WL 12 260027, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 25, 2012) citing Chambers v. NASCO, 13 Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43-46 (1991). 14 any attorney “who so multiplies the proceedings in any case 15 unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the court to 16 satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys’ 17 fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct.” 18 fees is also appropriate where counsel acted in bad faith. 19 United States v. Blodgett, 709 F.2d 608, 610 (9th Cir. 1983). 20 “Bad faith is present when an attorney knowingly or recklessly 21 raises a frivolous argument.” 22 of Sup’rs, 106 F.3d 409 (9th Cir. 1997). 23 frivolous where a reasonable and competent inquiry into the law 24 and facts would have revealed that a claim was not well-founded. 25 Great Dynasty Int’l Fin. Holdings Ltd. v. Haiting Li, No. C-13- 26 1734 EMC, 2014 WL 3381416, at *7 (N.D. Cal. July 10, 2014). 27 Further, in response to a FEHA claim, a prevailing defendant may 28 recover attorney’s fees when “the plaintiff’s action was 28 U.S.C. § 1927 provides that A sanction of Stiglich v. Contra Costa Cty. Bd. 2 Conduct is reckless and 1 frivolous, unreasonable, without foundation, or brought in bad 2 faith.” 3 (2010); Rezaipour v. County of Los Angeles, Civ. No. 12-5005 MWF, 4 2014 WL 12687111, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 26, 2014). 5 Chavez v. City of Los Angeles, 47 Cal. 4th 970, 985 Here, plaintiff named John Wood as a defendant without 6 presenting any evidence to support his decision to do so. In 7 fact, while plaintiff admitted that EthosEnregy was his employer, 8 not once did he point to any evidence indicating that John Wood 9 was his employer as well. Plaintiff conceded that he had no 10 knowledge regarding the corporate structure of John Wood, and 11 admittedly never researched the corporate structure or ownership 12 of EthosEnergy, despite the fact that this information is a 13 matter of public record. 14 Def.’s Mot. for Atty’s Fees (“Crow Decl.”) ¶ 13, Ex. 6 (Parker 15 Dep. at 39-40).) 16 plaintiff offered absolutely no evidence to support the inclusion 17 of John Wood in this lawsuit. 18 (Decl. of Heather Crow in Supp. of As this court has previously recognized, (Docket No. 49 at 23.) Additionally, John Wood’s counsel conferred with 19 plaintiff’s counsel on numerous occasions and explained that John 20 Wood was a separate entity from EthosEnergy and that John Wood 21 had not been plaintiff’s employer at any point. 22 4.) 23 plaintiff’s counsel that John Wood was a separate entity and thus 24 an improperly named party. 25 emailed plaintiff’s counsel to again explain these facts, and 26 even included the public filings of each company to demonstrate 27 that they were in fact separate entities. 28 Days later, on July 18, 2016, John Wood reached out to (Crow Decl. ¶ Specifically, on July 12, 2016, John Wood’s counsel notified (Id. at ¶ 5.) 3 On July 13, John Wood (Id. at ¶ 6, Ex. 1.) 1 plaintiff’s counsel yet again, this time regarding voluntary non- 2 suit of John Wood. 3 explicitly asked plaintiff’s counsel to voluntarily dismiss John 4 Wood to avoid the expense of filing a motion to dismiss. (Id. at 5 ¶ 8, Ex. 3.) 6 contacted plaintiff’s counsel to explain that John Wood never 7 employed plaintiff and to reiterate its request of nonsuit and 8 the avoidance of incurring additional expenses. 9 Ex. 4.) 10 (Id. at ¶ 7, Ex. 2.) On July 27, John Wood A month later, counsel for John Wood again (Id. at ¶ 10, Despite all of John Wood’s attempts, plaintiff continually refused to dismiss this defendant. 11 The court finds that plaintiff’s naming of John Wood as 12 a defendant, despite the fact that John Wood was clearly not 13 plaintiff’s employer, was unreasonable and without foundation, 14 and yet plaintiff “continued to litigate after it clearly became 15 so.” 16 (1978). 17 faith in bringing this lawsuit, the court need not address 18 whether plaintiff acted in bad faith because that is not the 19 test. 20 defendant if it finds that the plaintiff’s action was frivolous, 21 unreasonable, or without foundation, even if it was not brought 22 in subjective bad faith. 23 finds that defendant is entitled to the $17,612.01 it expended on 24 attorney’s fees and costs during the defense of this lawsuit, 25 plus the additional fees incurred in the preparation of this 26 motion. 27 28 Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 421-22 Although plaintiff argues that he did not act in bad Rather, a court may grant attorney’s fees to a prevailing 1 Id. at 421. Accordingly, the court 1 Defense counsel represented both John Wood and EthosEnergy. However, the court has reviewed the attorney’s fees 4 1 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendant’s Motion for 2 Attorney’s Fees (Docket No. 55) be, and the same hereby is, 3 GRANTED. 4 the additional fees incurred in the preparation of this motion. 5 Dated: Plaintiff is ordered to pay defendant $17,612.01, plus January 10, 2018 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 and expenses (Crow Decl. ¶ 18, Ex. 8) and is satisfied that the services for which the fees have been charged relate only to the defense of John Wood and were not for the benefit of co-defendant EthosEnergy. Additionally, plaintiff has not argued that the fees have not been sufficiently separated between the defendants. 5

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