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Behne v. Microtouch Systems

July 15, 1999

ALISA BEHNE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICROTOUCH SYSTEMS, INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Infante, United States Magistrate Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS FEES AND EXPERT WITNESS COSTS

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is the post-trial motion by Plaintiff seeking an award of attorneys fees and costs. The motion came on for hearing before the Court on July 12, 1999, the parties appearing through their respective counsel of record. Having considered the papers submitted by the parties and the arguments of counsel, and GOOD CAUSE APPEARING for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED.

II. BACKGROUND

From February 23, 1999 through March 11, 1999, the Court conducted a jury trial on Plaintiff Alissa Behne's claims against Defendant Microtouch. Behne proceeded to trial generally on two theories: 1) fraud in that Defendant made intentional and negligent misrepresentations to induce Behne to accept employment, and 2) sex discrimination and retaliation, in that during Plaintiff's employment, Defendant engaged in sex discrimination against her, and took adverse action against her in retaliation for her having filed an EEOC complaint. On March 12, 1999, the jury returned a special verdict in Plaintiff's favor on her fraud-based claims, and largely against her on her discrimination and retaliation claims. Judgment was entered on the jury's verdicts on May 4, 1999. A modified judgment was entered on July 15, 1999, following post-trial motions.*fn1

On May 26, 1999, the parties filed a Stipulation and Order, subsequently entered by the Court, which set forth the procedure the Court would follow in determining whether Plaintiff was entitled to recover reasonable attorneys fees and costs under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. or under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Government Code § 12965(b). The parties stipulated that Plaintiff is the prevailing party for purposes of costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1020 and Local Rule 54–1. The parties further stipulated that the amount sought in costs and fees is reasonable. Thus, the stipulation leaves only a few discrete issues for the Court to determine:

1) whether Plaintiff was the prevailing party under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and Cal. Gov't Code § 12965(b);

2) if Plaintiff is determined to be the prevailing party, is she entitled to recover expert fees; and,

3) whether Defendant's offers of judgment bar attorneys fees and costs incurred after the dates of the offers.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff is not the prevailing party and is not entitled to recover her attorneys fees or expert witness fees.

III. DISCUSSION

In relevant part, for the purposes of this motion, Plaintiff asserted two discrimination and retaliation claims against the Defendant. Plaintiff complained that Defendant had discriminated against her based on her sex, and thereafter retaliated against her for complaining of the discrimination. The same facts supported Plaintiff's claim under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and her state law claim under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), Cal. Gov't Code § 12965(b). In the special verdict on Plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation claims, the jury found in favor of the Defendant on Plaintiff's claim for discrimination. On the retaliation claim, the jury found in favor of the Plaintiff, but it also found that Defendant had a mixed motive and that Defendant would have taken the adverse employment action against Plaintiff anyway, notwithstanding the retaliatory motive. In other words, the jury returned a "mixed motive" verdict on Plaintiff's retaliation claim, and found in favor of Defendant.

1. Attorneys Fees Under Title VII

Defendant argues that Plaintiff is not entitled to an award of attorneys fees under Title VII because she did not prevail on her claim of discrimination, nor did she prevail on her claim for retaliation. Even though the jury found that Defendant had a retaliatory motive, the jury also found that there were non-retaliatory ...


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