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International Union v. TRW Automotive U.S. LLC

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

September 30, 2019

INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE AND AGRICULTURAL, IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA UAW, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
TRW AUTOMOTIVE U.S., LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS FOR ATTORNEY FEES [ECF Nos. 63, 77] and ADOPTING IN PART THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [ECF No. 82]

          DENISE PAGE HOOD, CHIEF JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         This matter comes before the Court on Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub’s Report and Recommendation [ECF No. 82], entered on August 20, 2019. The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny Plaintiffs’ Motion for Attorney Fees and Expenses [ECF No. 63] and Supplemental Motion for Attorney Fees and Expenses [ECF No. 77] (collectively, “Motions for Attorney Fees”). Plaintiffs filed objections to the Report and Recommendation, to which Defendant filed a response. For the reasons that follow, the Court adopts the Background section of the Report and Recommendation, adopts in part the Analysis section of the Report and Recommendation, and grants in part Plaintiffs’ Motions for Attorney Fees.

         II. Background

         The Court finds that the facts and procedural background of this matter set forth in the Background section of the Report and Recommendation, see E C F N o . 8 2, P g I D 1642-45, accurately relate the history of this matter. The Court adopts the Background section and incorporates by reference into this Order the Background section of the Report and Recommendation.

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiffs ask the Court to award them a total of $384, 470.09 for attorney fees and costs. Plaintiffs’ Motions for Attorney Fees rely on Section 1132(g)(1) of ERISA, which allows the Court, “in its discretion, ” to award “a reasonable attorney’s fee and costs of action to either party.” 29 U.S.C. §1132(g)(1). See also Hardt v. Reliance Standard, 560 U.S. 242, 254-55 (2010) (the court, “in its discretion, ” may award attorney fees under Section 1132(g)(1) if the claimant has shown “some degree of success on the merits”).

A claimant does not satisfy that requirement [“some degree of success on the merits”] by achieving “trivial success on the merits” or a “purely procedural victor[y], ” but does satisfy it if the court can fairly call the outcome of the litigation some success on the merits without conducting a “lengthy inquir[y] into the question whether a particular party’s success was ‘substantial’ or occurred on a ‘central issue.’”

Hardt, 560 U.S. at 255 (citations omitted).

         A. Attorney Fees and Costs Through the Date of the Arbitration Award

         As the Magistrate Judge noted, the arbitrator denied Plaintiffs’ request for attorney fees because Paragraph 4.4 of the CBA provides that “each party shall bear the expense of its own representatives.” Plaintiffs: (1) did not move to vacate the arbitrator’s decision denying attorney fees; (2) voluntarily dismissed their appeal of this Court’s order compelling arbitration [ECF No. 32]; and (3) did not otherwise challenge the denial of an award of attorney fees and costs for Plaintiffs’ expenses related to the arbitration. For those reasons, the Court agrees with and adopts the Magistrate Judge’s conclusion that “Plaintiffs are bound by the arbitrator’s determination that each side will bear its own fees through the date of the arbitration award.” ECF No. 82, PgID 1646.

         The Court is not persuaded by Plaintiffs’ argument that this Court’s determination that the arbitrator’s decision “did not address Plaintiffs’ claims regarding the ERISA violations” or “preclude a future request for attorney fees on the ERISA claim” affords Plaintiffs a right to recover attorney fees on their ERISA claim. See ECF No. 62, PgID 1373-74. This Court previously held that the arbitrator “addressed only whether TRW breached the CBA” and his “ruling that each party shall bear the expense of its own representatives . . . necessarily reached only the matter addressed in arbitration, i.e., the breach of contract claim . . .” Id. at 1374.

         Plaintiffs now acknowledge that “[t]he parties decided not to raise any ERISA issues with the arbitrator.” ECF No. 83, PgID 1652. Plaintiffs concede that only the breach of contract claim was presented to and decided by the arbitrator, and Plaintiffs did not challenge the arbitrator’s ruling that Plaintiffs would bear their own fees through the date of the arbitration award. As the ERISA claim was not addressed prior to or at arbitration, the Court finds no merit in Plaintiffs’ argument that they are entitled to any attorney fees and costs incurred prior to the arbitrator’s award for their ERISA claim.

         Accordingly, if Plaintiffs are entitled to recover any attorney fees and costs on their ERISA claim, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs’ recovery must be limited to attorney fees and costs ...


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