Hinfin Realty Corp., et al v. Pittston Company

Filing 85

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - Despite its long-standing pendency, this Court has not addressed defendant The Pittson Company's motion for attorneys' fees. For the aforementioned reasons, Defendant's motion for attorneys' fees and costs is DENIED. So Ordered by Judge Joanna Seybert on 4/23/2014. (Valle, Christine)

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK ----------------------------------X HINFIN REALTY CORP., HARBOR FUEL COMPANY, INC., and GLENWOOD TERMINAL CORP., Plaintiffs, MEMORANDUM & ORDER 00-CV-4285(JS) -againstTHE PITTSTON COMPANY, Defendant. ----------------------------------X APPEARANCES For Plaintiffs: John Peter McEntee, Esq. Payne, Wood, & Littlejohn 290 Broad Hollow Road Melville, New York 11747 For Defendant: Kathryn Gull, Esq. 23 South 6th Street Locust Valley, New York 11560 SEYBERT, District Judge: Despite its long-standing pendency, this Court has not addressed defendant The Pittson Company’s (“Defendant”) motion for attorneys’ fees. Nonetheless, Defendant’s motion is DENIED. BACKGROUND The Court presumes background of this case. general familiarity with the Briefly, this case was originally assigned to Judge Arthur D. Spatt. Plaintiffs Hinfin Realty Corp.; Harbor Fuel Company, Inc.; and Glenwood Terminal Corp. (“Plaintiffs”) Federal Rule moved of for Civil a voluntary Procedure dismissal 41(a)(2), which pursuant Judge to Spatt granted on April 12, 2002. In that Order, Judge Spatt also denied Defendant’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs, with leave to renew with proper documentation. Defendant renewed that motion and, following reassignment to the undersigned, the Court entered addressed. an Order stating that the motion would be (See Endorsed Order dated Sept. 29, 2003.) DISCUSSION Defendant asserts that it should recover attorneys’ fees and costs because there was a Rule 41(a)(2) dismissal and Plaintiffs failed to participate in the action. The Court disagrees. Generally, where a plaintiff successfully dismisses a suit without prejudice under Rule 41(a)(2), courts can grant the defendant an award of costs or fees. See Colombrito v. Kelly, 764 F.2d 122, 133 (2d Cir. 1985) (“Fee awards are often made when a plaintiff dismisses a suit without prejudice under Rule 41(a)(2).” (emphasis omitted)). automatic. A fee award, however, is not See Global One Commc’ns World Holding B.V. v. Gaul, No. 01-CV-0254, 2008 WL 2783429, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. July 16, 2008) (noting that the Colombrito rule “does not amount to a bright line rule” in favor of granting fees). Rather, there appears to be a split within this Circuit, with some courts requiring a showing of bad faith or vexatious plaintiff before granting fees. conduct on behalf of the See Cont’l Ins. Co. v. Morrison 2 Exp. Corp., Ltd., No. 06-CV-2408, 2009 WL 1269701, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. May 7, 2009); BD ex rel. Doe v. DeBuono, 193 F.R.D. 117, 125 (S.D.N.Y. (S.D.N.Y. 1996). 2000); In re Shavit, 197 B.R. 763, 771 But see Mercer Tool Corp. v. Friedr. Dick GmbH, 179 F.R.D. 391, 396 (E.D.N.Y. 1998) (awarding fees despite no finding of bad faith or vexatious conduct). While not siding with either formation of the rule, the Court finds the inquiry into bad faith instructive and useful in this narrow case. The policy considerations behind the Colombrito rule point towards fear of duplicative litigation. Indeed, the court in Colombrito reasoned that “[t]he purpose of such awards is generally to reimburse the defendant for the litigation costs incurred, in view of the risk (often the certainty) faced by the defendant that the same suit will be refiled and will impose duplicative expenses upon him.” Colombrito exception is in 764 F.2d at 133. contrast to the Moreover, the general rule of American law, which provides that each party bear the cost of its own attorneys’ fees. The See id. circumstances of this case do not warrant departure from the general rule that parties bear their own costs and fees. See In re Kassover, No. 98-43124, 2008 WL 4845757, at *3 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Oct. 30, 2008) (“Although a court may impose attorneys’ fees and costs under Federal Rule 41(a)(2), it should do so only when justice so demands.”). 3 First, one of the considerations contemplated Colombrito is the “risk of relitigation of the issues.” F.2d at 134. passed, 764 However, any statute of limitations has long- and litigation. in the parties have not indicated any subsequent See N.Y. C.P.L.R. 213(2) (providing for a six-year statute of limitations). this case for years. In fact, there has been no activity in Simply put, it does not appear that this is a pressing matter for Plaintiffs.1 This concern was indeed, one of the reasons that the Plaintiffs dismissed their action in the first place. Second, another purpose of the Colombrito rule is “generally to reimburse the defendant for the litigation costs incurred in view of the risk faced by the defendant that the same suit will be refiled and will result in the imposition of duplicative expenses.” The Gap Inc. v. Stone Int’l Trading, Inc., 169 F.R.D. 584, 589 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). As noted in the December 19, 2002 Order, however, “payment of fees . . . must be limited to compensation for work that cannot be used in a second contemplated Pittston Co., action 212 citations omitted). . . . F.R.D. .” Hinfin 461, 463 Realty (E.D.N.Y. Corp. 2002) v. The (internal In the previous decision, the Court found Moreover, in the April 12 Order, the Court noted that “the plaintiffs’ board members are unsure if the continuation of this action is economically warranted.” Hinfin Realty Corp. v. Pittston Co., 206 F.R.D. 350, 352 (E.D.N.Y. 2002). 1 4 that “if the plaintiffs choose to file another lawsuit against Pittston, the grounds likely will be the same, and much of the work already done by Pittston will either be unnecessary or easy to duplicate.” Id. at 464. award of fees and costs. Thus, this also weighs against an See Kassover, 2008 WL 4845757, at *4. Third, Judge Spatt previously rejected any contention that Plaintiffs acted in bad faith. See Hinfin, 206 F.R.D. at 355-56 (observing that Plaintiffs were “prompt” and “diligent;” not “vexatious;” and not “harass[ing])”; see also, Hinfin, 212 F.R.D. at 462 (“[T]he plaintiffs acted in good faith.”). CONCLUSION For the aforementioned reasons, Defendant’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs is DENIED. SO ORDERED. /s/ JOANNA SEYBERT______ Joanna Seybert, U.S.D.J. Dated: April 23 , 2014 Central Islip, NY 5

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