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Basil v. Maryland Transportation Authority

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 5, 2015

RENEE BASIL, Plaintiff,
v.
MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Renee Basil's Motion Requesting Attorneys' Fees (ECF No. 112).[1] The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is deemed necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiff's Motion (ECF No. 112) is GRANTED, and this Court awards attorneys' fees in the amount of $72, 957.75 to Ms. Azeredo and Mr. Romberger, $148, 766.00 to Mr. Doty and Mr. Saxena, and $10, 788.92 in costs and expenses, plus post-judgment interest running from July 24, 2014.

BACKGROUND

This Court has previously summarized the facts of this case in its April 23, 2014 Memorandum Opinion, and only a short summary is necessary here. Plaintiff Renee Basil enrolled in the Maryland Transportation Authority ("MdTA") Police Academy on August 1, 2007 and completed her training on February 22, 2008. Defendant Officer Michael Noel had been an MdTA employee since 1989 and was Basil's Motor Vehicle Law instructor. After graduating from the Academy in February 2008, Basil was assigned to the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel Command. Soon thereafter, however, she sustained a dog bite injury that left her unable to return to full police officer duty. She was placed on light duty while awaiting a determination concerning her application for medical retirement.[2] MdTA officers seeking medical retirement are routinely assigned to light duty positions while awaiting the finalization of the approval process. While on light duty, Basil worked in proximity to Officer Noel.

In June of 2009, Basil complained to her supervisors about harassing conduct by Officer Noel. Soon thereafter, her employment was terminated. Administrative proceedings related to her termination followed.

On September 21, 2009, Basil timely filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging a continuing pattern of harassment. In response to the EEOC Charge, the MdTA undertook an investigation of the allegations against Officer Noel. The investigator, who had never conducted an EEOC investigation before, produced a written report, finding nothing inappropriate in the emails and concluding that no sexual harassment or retaliation took place.

On February 22, 2012, Basil filed suit in this Court against the Maryland Transportation Authority, Officer Noel, and Captain Perry. On or about March 10, 2012, the EEOC closed its file and issued Basil a right to sue letter. Basil subsequently filed an Amended Complaint, alleging disparate treatment (Count I), hostile work environment (Count II), and retaliation (Count III) against the MdTA in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Additionally, Basil alleged individual claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officer Noel for subjecting her to a hostile work environment in violation of the Equal Protection Clause (Count IV) and against Captain Perry for violating her First Amendment rights (Count V).

The Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint, and this Court denied the Motion to Dismiss on February 15, 2013.[3] Mem. Op. & Order, ECF Nos. 23-24. The parties began a period of discovery, which was bifurcated for the purposes of fact and expert discovery.

On October 31, 2013, counsel for Basil at that time-Ms. Ruth Ann Azeredo, Timothy W. Romberger, and the Law Office of Ruth Ann Azeredo LLC-moved to withdraw from the case, asserting that Plaintiff had "failed substantially in her legal obligation the [sic] Law Office of Ruth Ann Azeredo LLC." See ECF No. 47. This Court granted the motion to withdraw that same day. Basil's present counsel, Daniel P. Doty entered his appearance on December 19, 2013.

After the conclusion of fact discovery, the Defendants moved for summary judgment. See ECF No. 58. This Court denied Defendants' motion with respect to all five counts. Thereafter, the parties engaged in expert discovery.

The seven-day jury trial in this case commenced on July 14, 2014. After Plaintiff concluded her case, the Court granted judgment as a matter of law to the Defendants on Count I (Title VII - disparate treatment), Count III (Title VI - Retaliation claim against MdTA), and Count V (42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Retaliation claim against Plaintiff's supervisor Captain Perry) and dismissed Captain Perry from the case. At the conclusion of trial, this Court entered judgment based upon the jury's verdict against the remaining Defendants; specifically, in accordance with the jury's verdict, the Court awarded $91, 146 against the MdTA as to Count II (Title VII - Hostile Work Environment) and $36, 000 against Officer Noel as to Count IV (42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Hostile Work Environment)

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff prevailed on two claims at trial. To that extent, Plaintiff is a prevailing party entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys' fees under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1988. See 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(k); 42 U.S.C. § 1988; see also E.E.O.C. v. Great Steaks, Inc., 667 F.3d 510, 516 (4th Cir. 2012). "[A] litigant is a prevailing party for purposes of an attorney's fees award if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit.'" Bd. of Educ. of Frederick County v. Summers, 358 F.Supp.2d 462, 465 (D. Md. 2005) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983)). As the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has explained:

For purposes of § 1988, a party in whose favor a judgment is rendered, regardless of the amount of damages awarded, is the prevailing party. More specifically, a party has prevailed if there has been a material alteration of the legal relationship ...

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