Teva Pharmaceuticals ordered to pay $455K in legal fees to former director; He said Israeli company fired him for being American

By Nicholas Malfitano | Mar 8, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – Teva Pharmaceuticals is now on the hook to pay in excess of $455,000 in legal bills to one of its former senior executives who successfully sued it for retaliation.

In response to a post-trial motion, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Judge Mark A. Kearney found in favor of plaintiff Stephen Middlebrooks on Feb. 26,  

According to court filings, Middlebrooks had worked for Teva between 2001 and February 2016. He was initially hired to work at the North Wales facility and eventually was promoted to Director of Facilities Engineering in 2013, making him responsible for more than 40 facilities and 50 direct reports.

Middlebrooks, who is American, alleged that he was wrongfully fired by his “long-time Israeli employer because of his age or American national origin,” the ruling said. He further alleged that the workplace became hostile after he complained about a poor performance review and that he was eventually fired after he filed a complaint alleging that his manager and Teva conspired to have him fired, and discriminated against him.

Though a trial court found that the company had not discriminated against him based on his age and national origin, it did decide that Teva created a hostile work environment and retaliated against Middlebrooks.

A trial court had awarded Middlebrooks $200,000 in compensatory damages, $332,000 in back pay, $450,000 in front pay and $5 million in punitive damages in his claims of retaliation and retaliatory hostile work environment against Teva. Based on a Title VII cap, the Court substantially reduced the $5 million punitive damages award of down to $300,000.

Through fee-shifting statutes and for his plaintiff counsel at Console Mattiaci, Middlebrooks then sought to recover attorney’s fees in the amount of $639,778; a contingency fee enhancement of $319,889, costs of $51,723.89, and post-judgment interest. However, Teva believed it should either eliminate or reduce attorney’s fees to a reasonable rate and number of hours, eliminate or reduce fees and costs, and deny a contingency fee enhancement.

However, the Court believed Console Mattiaci could have been more thorough in its accounting of the work and billable hours it performed for Middlebrooks.

“Lawyers should be credited for their hard work, but they need to tell us what they did. When they do not, we cannot find the amount of billed time is reasonable. We appreciate giving credit for any time billed without specific description may encourage dishonest billing by overinflating the time and hoping to be paid for half the time,” Kearney said.

“This is a valid concern, but not today. We witnessed the effects of hard work in the courtroom. Console Mattiacci and firms with similar billing practices will be better served (and paid) when they properly account for their efforts.”

Between attorney’s fees and costs, the Court awarded Middlebrooks a grand total of $455,393.

“Console Mattiacci persuaded the jury to vindicate Mr. Middlebrooks’s federal rights as a Teva senior employee. It won significant damages against a well-funded and motivated employer in a hard-fought litigation. It met its obligations as a private attorney general in enforcing federal rights in the workplace. Under Congress’s mandate, Mr. Middlebrooks is entitled to recovery of his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs,” Kearney stated.

“After carefully parsing through a thicket of billing records which do not offer a model of time recording for attorneys, we can find a reasonable number of hours based on adequate descriptions of services at a reasonable hourly rate in this District today. We grant Mr. Middlebrooks’s motion in part and award him reasonable attorney’s fees of $403,947.27 and reasonable costs of $51,445.73.”

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:17-cv-00412

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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