KAIRYS v. SOUTHERN PINES TRUCKING, INC.
ORDER granting in part 133 Motion for Attorney Fees. Signed by Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan on 5/9/2022. (lmg)
Case 2:19-cv-01031-NR Document 146 Filed 05/09/22 Page 1 of 3
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SOUTHERN PINES TRUCKING, INC.,
Plaintiff Thomas Kairys moves for attorneys’ fees and costs, pursuant to this
Court’s previous opinion (ECF 131, pp. 21-23) finding that reasonable attorneys’ fees
and costs are appropriate under ERISA. 1
The Court grants the motion, and
calculates such fees according to the lodestar method, which all parties agree is
Defendant Southern Pines Trucking objects to certain aspects of the motion,
arguing that the motion seeks excessive fees. ECF 141. But the Court finds that the
rates Mr. Kairys’s counsel charged are well-supported and reflective of the market
rate. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S.
886, 895 (1984). 2 Moreover, counsel’s billing entries (ECF 133-8) are sufficiently
Mr. Kairys also moves for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to the
Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL) and the parties’ contract.
ECF 133,¶¶ 6-7; Ex. 2, ¶ 8(f). The Court finds that its assessment of an appropriate
fee award is the same whether made pursuant to ERISA, the WPCL, or the contract.
The Court agrees that the lodestar calculation as to Mr. Kairys’s lead counsel, Ms.
Elzer, should be made using Ms. Elzer’s current hourly rate of $400/hour. Lanni v.
New Jersey, 259 F.3d 146, 149-150 (“When attorney’s fees are awarded, the current
market rate must be used. The current market rate is the rate at the time of the fee
petition, not the rate at the time the services were performed.” (cleaned up)). Though
Southern Pines contends that this rate is excessive and unreasonable, the Court notes
that Judge Wiegand approved this same rate recently in Turco v. Zambelli Fireworks
Mfg. Co., No. 19-174, 2022 WL 395245 at *3 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 9, 2022). The rate is
Case 2:19-cv-01031-NR Document 146 Filed 05/09/22 Page 2 of 3
specific and detailed to support the fee award requested. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at
433; Ursic v. Bethlehem Mines , 719 F.2d 670, 676 (3d Cir. 1983).
The parties agree that Mr. Kairys’s limited success here warrants some
reduction in fees. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434-35. That is, at trial, Mr. Kairys lost on
his discrimination and disability claims, but prevailed only on a relatively modest
statutory wage claim ($8,104.53 in total damages), as well as the ERISA claims later
submitted to the Court ($67,500 in equitable relief awarded). Mr. Kairys argues that
up to a 10% fee reduction is sufficient to take into account the limited success. ECF
133, ¶¶ 9-10. Southern Pines, on the other hand, requests at least a 40% discount.
ECF 141, pp. 7-8.
As the Supreme Court and Third Circuit have made clear, there is no precise
mathematical formula for determining fee reductions in cases of partial success. But
based on the evidence presented at trial, it is clear that a substantial portion of the
case presented was tied to the claims on which Mr. Kairys did not ultimately prevail:
disability discrimination and age discrimination. For example, Mr. Kairys sought
back pay of approximately $535,000 and front pay of approximately $105,000 per
year, in addition to compensatory damages for emotional distress. These damages—
with the exception of front pay— were based almost entirely on the claims on which
Mr. Kairys lost at trial. That said, as Mr. Kairys correctly points out, much of the
evidence presented did overlap between the successful and unsuccessful claims, since
all the claims had a “common core of facts” and were “based on related legal theories”
of discrimination and pretext. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435.
After considering the record, the parties’ arguments, and relevant case law,
the Court finds that an approximate 25% total reduction in pre-verdict fees is
reasonable. Reduction in post-verdict fees, however, is not warranted. Those fees all
otherwise not unreasonable or out of line with current market rates, as reflected in
the various declarations submitted with Mr. Kairys’s motion.
Case 2:19-cv-01031-NR Document 146 Filed 05/09/22 Page 3 of 3
relate to Mr. Kairys’s successful ERISA claims, his successful motion to mold the
verdict, and his counsel’s fee petition. Accordingly, the Court awards a reduced fee
of $90,404 3 for pre-verdict work and a full fee of $15,362.50 for post-verdict work, for
a total of $105,766.50 in attorneys’ fees.
Finally, Southern Pines quibbles over some of the costs claimed. Upon a review
of the invoices, the Court finds that Southern Pines’s objections to awarding costs are
not well-taken. There is, however, one reduction that the Court will independently
make. The Court will not order that Southern Pines reimburse Mr. Kairys for the
ADR costs as he requests. The ADR stipulation the parties submitted in December
2019 (ECF 12) was an agreement the parties mutually reached and the Court
approved that each side would pay 50% of the mediation costs. Shifting those costs
after trial would be contrary to that ADR agreement and would undermine the
“spirit” of the ADR cost-sharing arrangement. Therefore, the Court awards a total of
$6,215.29 in costs, which equates to a reduction of the costs bill of $1,750. See ECF
For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that Mr. Kairys’s petition
for attorneys’ fees and costs is GRANTED in part, as discounted herein. The Court
orders that Southern Pines pay Mr. Kairys a grand total of $111,981.79 in reasonable
attorneys’ fees and costs.
DATE: May 9, 2022
BY THE COURT:
/s/ J. Nicholas Ranjan
United States District Judge
Mr. Kairys’s counsel wrote off time related solely to work on the unsuccessful claims,
resulting in an approximate 5% reduction. This resulted in pre-verdict fees of
$113,005. The Court discounts this total by 20%, which results in an approximate
total 25% reduction and a total of $90,404 in pre-verdict fees.
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