Third Circuit Affirms Six-Figure Award Against Employees in FLSA Case
By: George Morrison
A recent Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision serves as an important reminder for “prevailing parties,” even employers in wage and hour matters, to seek certain costs incurred as part of litigation.
In Camesi, et al. v. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), et al., the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the Western District of Pennsylvania’s decision to award UPMC over $300,000 in costs in a collective Fair Labor Standards Act matter filed by four employees. The employees’ underlying claims related to an alleged failure to pay wages, due to a policy that automatically deducted time for meal breaks.
Following the employees’ voluntary dismissal of their claims to permit an immediate appeal to address whether the matter should be certified as a class action, UPMC requested that the trial court award it over $300,000 in costs as a prevailing party. UPMC incurred the costs in responding to broad discovery requests which sought millions of pages of documents that needed to be converted to TIFF format and loaded to a vendor’s platform for production.
In accordance with a federal rule that permits prevailing parties to recover “the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case,” the trial court held that the file format conversion activity constituted “making copies” and, therefore, ordered the employees to reimburse UPMC for these costs as a prevailing party. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the six-figure award, ultimately concluding that the named employees “voluntarily chose to bring their claims in a class action, and their counsel presumably informed them of the risks of doing so.”