Thomas Harwood, III v. American Airlines, Inc., No. 20-2200 (4th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff appealed the district court’s new orders on damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs in his suit against American Airlines (“AA”) pursuant to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA"). Plaintiff challenged the district court’s determination as to the equivalence of the position as the basis for its reassessed damages as well as the methods by which the district court calculated the new costs and fees award.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s award. The court wrote that the sole factual determination before the district court on remand was whether the position AA offered to Plaintiff on October 22 was equivalent to his escalator position as a line pilot. Section 4313(a)(3)(A) instructs that the alternative position must be one the individual is “qualified to perform” and which is “equivalent in seniority, status, and pay.” The court explained that district courts are best positioned to make factual determinations concerning warranted damages and the need for costs and fees.
Here, the court held that Plaintiff’s arguments fail to convince the court of the clear error in the district court’s determination as to the equivalence of the position AA offered. Further, the district court’s total award in attorneys’ fees based on these calculations does not constitute an abuse of discretion. The court employed the proper methodology: It calculated the lodestar by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours reasonably expended, appropriately considering the relevant factors. Ultimately, Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that any aspect of the district court’s fee award determination constitutes an abuse of its broad discretion.