Gray et al v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM & ORDER granting 33 Motion for Attorney Fees - For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's motion for attorneys' fees is GRANTED. Within thirty days, Defendant shall file its fee application on ECF as a "motion for attorneys' fees." Plaintiffs shall have thirty days from the date of Defendant's application to make objections. So Ordered by Judge Joanna Seybert on 9/17/12. C/ECF (Valle, Christine)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
WILLIAM S. GRAY, AUTO PARTNERS,
LLC, SUNRISE AUTOMOTIVE, LLC d/b/a
SUNRISE TOYOTA & SUNRISE SCION
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
-againstTOYOTA MOTOR SALES, U.S.A., INC.,
For Plaintiffs: David A. Rosenfeld, Esq.
Joseph Russello, Esq.
Samuel H. Rudman, Esq.
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP
58 South Service Road, Suite 200
Melville, NY 11747
Jonathan Paul Whitcomb, Esq.
Diserio Martin O'Connor & Castiglioni LLP
One Atlantic Street, 8th Floor
Stamford, CT 06901
Scott M. Harrington, Esq.
Diserio, Martin, O'Conner & Castiglioni LLP
50 Main Street, Suite 1000
White Plains, NY 10606
Carl J. Chiappa, Esq.
Nathaniel S. Boyer, Esq.
Hogan Lovells US LLP
875 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
SEYBERT, District Judge:
Sales' (“Defendant” or “TMS”) motion for attorneys' fees, costs,
reasons, this motion is GRANTED.
The facts of this case, with which the Court presumes
the reader’s familiarity, are detailed in the Court’s August 25,
2011 Memorandum and Order granting TMS' motion to dismiss.
Gray v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., 806 F. Supp. 2d 619
TMS now moves to recover its attorneys’ fees
incurred in defending (1) Plaintiffs’ claim under New York's
Franchised Motor Vehicle Dealer Act
(the “Dealer Act”) and (2)
requests in turn.
I. New York’s Franchised Motor Vehicle Dealer Act
In Dealer Act cases, the Court may award “necessary
costs and disbursements plus a reasonable attorney’s fee to any
N.Y. VEH. & TRAF. L. § 469 (“Section 469”).
initial matter, the parties dispute whether a fee award under
evaluating whether an award is appropriate.
The Court rejects
TMS’ argument that it is automatically entitled to its fees
because it prevailed in this action.
(See Def. Br. 9.)
award under Section 469 is discretionary.
See Aspen Ford, Inc.
v. Ford Motor Co., Nos. 99-CV-5978, 01-CV-4677, 2007 WL 777739,
intended to make fee awards mandatory, it could have easily made
certain actions against the state, “a court shall award” fees to
rejects Plaintiffs’ view that the Court find that their case was
frivolous before awarding TMS its legal fees.
could have conditioned fees on a finding of frivolousness, but
Compare N.Y. VEH. & TRAF. L. § 469 with N.Y. EXEC. L.
it did not.
Having concluded that a fee award is neither mandatory
question is whether an award is appropriate in this case.
The few cases to consider fees under Section 469 have
either awarded them or, in one case, denied them for reasons not
See Sportique Motors, Ltd. v. Jaguar Cars, Inc.,
No. 00-CV-2037 (E.D.N.Y. July 16, 2003) (available at Docket
Motors Corp. v. Villa Marin Chevrolet, Inc., 240 F. Supp. 2d
182, 184 (E.D.N.Y. 2002) (awarding counterclaim defendants their
Inc., 169 Misc. 2d 737, 740, 647 N.Y.S.2d 683, 685 (Sup. Ct.
Nassau Cnty. 1996); see also Aspen Ford, 2007 WL 777739, *6
provision and declining to award fees where a final order had
not yet been entered).
Plaintiffs cite a line from Villa Marin
to argue that a defendant is only entitled to fees where the
plaintiff’s suit is “so plainly lacking in merit.”
(citing Villa Marin, 240 F. Supp. 2d at 184).)
(Pls. Opp. 8
This line is
dicta; the court there already concluded that the plaintiff had
waived the argument and that, in any event, it was based on
unpersuasive case law.
Villa Marin, 240 F. Supp. 2d at 184.
action was “plainly lacking in merit,” it notes that it was not
a particularly close case.
Gray, 806 F. Supp. 2d at
624 (finding that one of Plaintiffs’ arguments “border[ed] on
supports a fee award here.
Plaintiffs argue that their Dealer Act claim was brought in good
faith and the only reason that it was not successful was that
Plaintiffs could not obtain Consumer Satisfaction Index data in
(See Pls. Opp. 10.)
But “[i]t is not permissible to
file suit and use discovery as the sole means of finding out
whether you have a case.
Discovery fills in the details, but
you must have the outline of a claim at the beginning.”
Int'l Enters. v. Miami Sun Int'l Corp., No. 05–CV–3826, 2009 WL
2957849, at *4 n.5 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2009) (quoting Szabo Food
Serv., Inc. v. Canteen Corp., 823 F.2d 1073, 1083 (7th Cir.
They also argue that a fee award would contravene the
purpose of the Dealer Act because the law “sought to level the
playing field” for car dealers.
(Pls. Opp. 12.)
construction dictate that statutory analysis necessarily begins
with the ‘plain meaning’ of a law’s text and, absent ambiguity,
will generally end there.”
United States v. Sabhnani, 599 F.3d
215, 255 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting United States v. Venturella,
391 F.3d 120, 125 (2d Cir. 2004)).
means just that.
In this case, “any party”
N.Y. VEH. & TRAF. L. § 469.
attorneys’ fees is GRANTED.
Within thirty days, Defendant shall
file its fee application on ECF as a “motion for attorneys’
Defendant’s application to make objections.
/s/ JOANNA SEYBERT______
Joanna Seybert, U.S.D.J.
September 17, 2012
Central Islip, New York
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