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Tyson v. Sterling Car Rental, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 11, 2019

Setara Tyson, Plaintiff,
v.
Sterling Car Rental, Inc., d/b/a Car Source, Al Chami, and Rami Kamil, Defendants.

          Mona K. Majzoub, Mag. Judge.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [141] AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES [124]

          JUDITH E. LEVY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the Court grant in part and deny in part plaintiff's motion for attorney fees. (ECF No. 124 PageID.1545-58.) Plaintiff submitted one objection to the R&R (ECF No. 143 PageID.1821-26), defendants responded (ECF No. 48 PageID.1828-31), and plaintiff filed a reply in support of her objection. (ECF No. 146 PageID. 1840-41). Defendants submitted three objections (ECF No. 142 PageID.1803-20) and plaintiff responded (ECF No. 147 PageID.1844-53.) For reasons set forth below, plaintiff and defendants' objections are overruled, and the R&R is adopted in full.

         I. Background

         The Court has carefully reviewed the R&R and is satisfied that it is a thorough account of the relevant portions of the record. The factual background from the R&R is incorporated as if set forth herein.

         II. Legal Standard

         A party may object to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on any motion, and a district judge must resolve proper objections under a de novo standard of review. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)- (C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(1)-(3). “For an objection to be proper, Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 72.1(d)(1) requires parties to ‘specify the part of the order, proposed findings, recommendations, or report to which [the party] objects' and to ‘state the basis for the objection.'” Pearce v. Chrysler Group LLC Pension Plan, 893 F.3d 339, 346 (6th Cir. 2018). Objections that restate arguments already presented to the magistrate judge are improper, Coleman-Bey v. Bouchard, 287 Fed.Appx. 420, 422 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Brumley v. Wingard, 269 F.3d 629, 647 (6th Cir. 2001)), as are those that dispute the general correctness of the R&R. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995).

         Moreover, objections must be clear so that the district court can “discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Id. (citing Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991)); and see Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985) (explaining that objections must go to “factual and legal” issues “at the heart of the parties' dispute”). In sum, the parties' objections must be clear and specific enough to permit Court to squarely address them on the merits. See Pearce, 893 F.3d at 346.

         III. Analysis

         A. Plaintiff's Objection 1

         Plaintiff objects to the R&R's finding that she was not a prevailing party on her Michigan state law conversion claim after remand. (ECF No. 143 PageID.1822-26.) She argues that the Magistrate Judge erred when she found that the stipulated order (the “Stipulated Order”) (ECF. No. 120 PageID.1526-27) lacks the judicial imprimatur necessary to confer prevailing party status on plaintiff for the purposes of an attorney fee award. (ECF No. 143 PageID.1822-23.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court disagrees.

         After remand from the Sixth Circuit, the parties settled plaintiff's remaining state conversion claims. (ECF No. 141, PageID.1770). Pursuant to the parties' settlement, the Court entered the Stipulated Order resolving the final claim for damages. (ECF No. 120, PageID.1526-27). Only a final judgment on the merits or a court-enforced consent decree renders a party the “prevailing party” for the purpose of requesting attorney fees. Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Virginia Dep't. of Health and Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 605 (2001). Because plaintiff did not acquire either, she cannot recover attorney fees for these claims. See also Toms v. Taft, 338 F.3d 519 (6th Cir. 2016) (Because the plaintiffs “obtained neither a ‘judgment on the merits' nor a ‘court-ordered consent decree,' they are not eligible for attorney's fees”).

         Plaintiff argues that defendants' payment of $7000 constituted a sufficient material change in her legal relationship with defendants to render her the prevailing party. (ECF No. 143, PageID.1825). But “[p]rivate settlement agreements do not confer prevailing party status.” Toms, 338 F.3d at 528-29; See also Buckhannon, 532 U.S. at 604-605.[1]

         Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge correctly found that plaintiff was not eligible for attorney fees incurred on remand for work ...


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