Thursday, September 22, 2011
MILLEA v. METRO NORTH RAILROAD COMPANY, ____F.3d____(2d Cir. August 8, 2011), is a critically important attorneys fees case that arose under the the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has an attorney fee provision similar to many statutes. The district court reduced the fee award reasoning that the claim upon which the plaintiff prevailed “had no public policy significance.” The 2nd Cir. held that that was error reasoning that “[b]y enacting a fee-shifting provision for FMLA claims, Congress has already made the policy determination that FMLA claims serve an important public purpose disproportionate to their cash value. We cannot second-guess this legislative policy decision.”
The Second Circuit found that “the district court impermissibly reduced its initial fee award based on an incorrect conclusion that Millea's victory was “de minimis.” Millea, 2010 WL 126186, at *6. The $612.50 award was not de minimis; to the contrary, the award was more than 100% of the damages Millea sought on that claim. The district court conflated a small damages award with a de minimis victory.”
The Second Circuit found that “calculating attorneys' fees as a proportion of damages runs directly contrary to the purpose of fee-shifting statutes: assuring that civil rights claims of modest cash value can attract competent counsel.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein