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Pedigo v. P.A.M. Transport, Inc – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In Pedigo v. P.A.M. Transport, Inc., 98 F.3d 396 (8th Cir. 1996), a plaintiff prevailed in a jury trial on a discrimination claim against his employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 - 12213.

The employer noted an appeal from the merits judgment. While the appeal was pending, the district court awarded the plaintiff $30,000 in prevailing party attorneys' fees. No appeal was taken from that order.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the merits judgment "because the jury instructions improperly permitted recovery of compensatory damages in a mixed-motive case." Id. at 397.

On remand, the district court held a hearing and ruled that the plaintiff was entitled to a declaratory judgment that the employer had intentionally violated the ADA, but was not entitled to any further relief. The plaintiff then petitioned for an additional award of attorneys' fees.

The district court decided not to award any additional attorneys' fees, beyond the $30,000 it already had awarded, because, although in its view, the plaintiff still was a prevailing party, he had "suffered a setback on appeal." Id.

The plaintiff noted an appeal from the judgment denying him additional attorneys' fees and the employer noted a cross-appeal, challenging the judgment to the "extent that it confirmed the prior award of $30,000 in fees." Id.

The employer took the position that the plaintiff no longer was a prevailing party, and was not eligible to recover any attorneys' fees.

The Eighth Circuit agreed with the employer. It held that the plaintiff was not a prevailing party in any respect because he "had no enforceable judgment, even of a nominal character, that affected the behavior of the employer toward him." Id. at 398.

The court opined:

Although plaintiff had been awarded $30,000 in fees before we vacated the jury verdict, the prior award cannot stand in light of our holding that plaintiff is not a prevailing party. In general, reversal of a judgment nullifies not only that judgment but any order based upon it. Harris v. Pirch, 677 F.2d 681, 689 (8th Cir.1982). In particular, an order awarding attorney's fees based on a party having prevailed in a trial court cannot survive the reversal of that party's judgment on appeal. See id.; see also Clark v. Township of Falls, 890 F.2d 625, 626-27 (3d Cir.1989); Swietlowich v. County of Bucks, 620 F.2d 33, 34-35 (3d Cir.1980) (per curiam). The plaintiff ceased to be a prevailing party when his judgment was vacated and the case was remanded, and he never subsequently prevailed in this suit in such a way as would allow the district court to hold that he was a prevailing party on the merits. Plaintiff is thus not entitled to recover any attorney's fees. Id.