United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Employment – FLSA — attorney fees
Where the defendant made no offers to settle until the eve of trial, it was error for the district court to refuse to award attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff under the FLSA.
“GDF, it’s true, did offer to ‘settle everything’ for $25,000 just before the state court trial was scheduled to begin. And substantial settlement offers should be considered in determining reasonable attorney’s fees. Moriarty v. Svec, 233 F.3d 955, 967 (7th Cir. 2000). But Johnson rejected that offer and that was reasonable enough given the possibility that he might (and did) recover liquidated and punitive damages in the federal case. The case then continued without mention of settlement other than the passing reference in the Final Pretrial Order. Again, unlike Spegon, there was no offer of judgment and no settlement, but instead a three-day trial and an appeal.”
“In short, given the fundamental differences between this case and Spegon, it was unreasonable, and therefore an abuse of discretion, for the district court to deny nearly all of Rossiello’s hours ‘[f]or the same reasons articulated in Spegon.’ GDF knew (approximately) what it was up against and proceeded to trial, without an offer of judgment or any concession of liability. GDF tested its luck and lost. Now it must pay for the attorney hours reasonably required to see the case through trial, to appeal, and for the collection of fees.”
Reversed and Remanded.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Guzman, J., Tinder, J.