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Goree v. United Parcel Service Inc.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

June 2, 2017

MITCH GOREE, ET AL.
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE INC.

          April 25, 2017 Session

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-003102-11 Jerry Stokes, Judge

         This is the second appeal of this employment discrimination case involving two plaintiffs. In the first appeal, Goree v. United Parcel Service, 490 S.W.3d 413 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. March 23, 2016), this Court reversed the judgment as to one plaintiff and affirmed the judgment as to the other plaintiff, the Appellant in the instant case. On remand, the trial court determined that the specific attorney's fees chargeable to each plaintiff could not be determined and reduced the previous award of attorney's fees and costs by 50%. Appellant appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded.

          Eric H. Espey, Germantown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mitch Goree.

          Marcus M. Crider and Aron Z. Karabel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, United Parcel Service, Inc.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Richard H. Dinkins, and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE.

         I. Background

         This is the second appeal of this employment discrimination case. The background facts and procedural history are set out in our first opinion, Goree v. United Parcel Service, 490 S.W.3d 413 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. March 23, 2016) ("Goree I"), and we will not extend the length of this opinion to restate them here. Suffice to say that Messrs. Mitch Goree ("Appellant") and James Wherry filed suit against Appellee United Parcel Service ("UPS"), claiming racial discrimination and unlawful retaliation in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Following a jury trial, Mr. Goree received a verdict of $2, 600, 000 ($600, 000 in back pay and benefits and $2, 000, 000 in compensatory damages). Mr. Wherry was awarded $2, 042, 000.00 ($1, 042, 000 in back pay and $1, 000, 000 in compensatory damages). Messrs. Goree and Wherry filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs; UPS opposed the motion. The trial court granted the full amount of attorney's fees that Messrs. Goree and Wherry sought, i.e., $263, 322.50 in fees and $11, 497.11 in costs.

         In Goree I, this Court reversed the trial court's remittitur of Mr. Goree's award for back pay and benefits of $600, 000 and upheld the trial court's remittitur of Mr. Goree's compensatory damages in the amount of $1, 100, 000. As is important to the instant appeal, in Goree I, this Court reversed the verdict in favor of Mr. Wherry on the ground that Mr. Wherry had failed to meet his burden of proof on his claims for racial discrimination and retaliation.

         On remand from Goree I, the trial court addressed several motions. As is relevant to the this appeal, UPS filed a motion to amend or modify the order on attorney's fees and costs. By its motion, UPS sought a reduction of the award of attorney's fees and costs by 50% based on the fact that this Court reversed Mr. Wherry's judgment in Goree I. By order of May 9, 2016, the trial court granted UPS's motion, reducing the total attorney's fees from $263, 322.50 to $131, 661.25 and the total costs award from $12, 352.67 to $6, 176.33. The trial court's order states, in relevant part:

The Court grants UPS's request to reduce Plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and discretionary costs by 50% because UPS was the prevailing party on James Wherry's claims. Further, UPS argued that it was impossible to segregate the fees and costs and the Court agrees. Therefore, Plaintiffs' counsels' total fee award shall be reduced from $263, ...

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