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Waring v. Roper St Francis Physician Network

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

March 31, 2017




         This matter is before the court on defendants Roper St. Francis Physicians Network (“the Network”), CareAlliance Health Service (“CareAlliance”), Douglas Bowling (“Bowling”), John J. Hallett, Jr., M.D. (“Hallett”), Mohammad Daud Nawabi, M.D. (“Nawabi”), and Steven D. Shapiro, M.D's (“Shapiro”) (collectively “defendants”) motion for attorney's fees. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion, granting only for those fees defendants incurred seeking arbitration after the May 29, 2015 mediation in the amount of $8, 108.50 and denying as to any fees that defendants incurred before the May 29, 2015 mediation. Pursuant to the arbitrator's decision, the court grants Waring fees for the wage payment claim for the period between July 14, 2014 and October 16, 2014 and orders that the parties bear their own costs for the arbitration proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of an employment dispute between plaintiff Eveline Adams Waring, M.D. (“Waring”) and defendants. In November 2013, Waring and the Network entered into the most recent Employment Agreement (“Agreement”), which became effective November 9, 2013 and had a one-year term. Am. Compl. ¶ 18. The Agreement contained the following mediation and arbitration provision:


22.1 Mediation. Network and Physician expressly agree that they shall seek mediation as their preferred method of handling problems, disputes or other matters in question that may arise between them from time to time. The mediation process may be initiated by either party by such party providing written notice to the other party at such time when the parties have been unable to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution to a problem or dispute within a reasonable period of time, and at such time as it appears that such a resolution is not likely to be attainable.
22.2 Arbitration. In the event that the parties are unable to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution through mediation, then upon the termination of the mediation process, the parties expressly agree to participate in arbitration proceedings and to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator. Such arbitration shall be conducted under the applicable guidelines and rules of the American Health Lawyers Association, shall take place in Charleston, South Carolina, and shall be concluded as promptly as possible. Each of the parties will use all reasonable efforts to ensure that any arbitration or mediation proceedings is completed within sixty (60) days following notice of a request for such arbitration or mediation. Network and Physician desire that this arbitration provision be interpreted in accordance with the South Carolina Arbitration Act, found at Section 15-48-1 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, as amended.
22.3 Expenses; Attorneys' Fees. All expenses incurred for the services of a mediator shall be shared equally by the parties participating in the mediation process. All expenses incurred for the arbitration proceeding, including reasonable attorneys' fees, shall be paid by the party or parties so ordered in the decision of the arbitrator.

         Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A. On May 23, 2014, as a result of ongoing disputes with the Network, Waring demanded mediation. Am. Compl. ¶ 64. The Network did not respond to the demand. Id. On June 13, 2014, Waring terminated the agreement, ending her employment with the Network and again requesting mediation. Id. ¶ 67. On July 16, 2014, Hallett and Shapiro filed a claim with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (“LLR”), making allegedly false statements regarding Waring's conduct. Id. ¶ 70. On July 23, 2014, Waring again notified the Network that it had “failed to respond to the demand for mediation as required by the Agreement.” Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 1.

         On or around September 2, 2014, the parties agreed to mediation on two days in October. Waring's case was apparently going to be mediated by David McCormack along with a similar case filed by Dr. Karla Pou. McCormack requested that Waring's counsel provide a complaint to defendants in order to formulate a defense. On October 1, 2014, shortly before mediation was set to begin, Waring filed suit in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas against the Network, Bowling, Hallett, and Nawabi. In an email the same day, defendants' counsel indicated that she could not accept service and that she would “just have to move to enforce arbitration and [] seek costs against Dr. Waring. David just wanted a Complaint drawn up so we knew what was being mediated.” Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. F. By letter dated October 3, 2014, defendants' counsel canceled mediation, stating that “[a]lthough we could go forward with a mediation even with a court not yet ruling on a Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative to Enforce Arbitration, it would be a pointless waste of money, much better spent on aggressively pursuing our own positions.” Defs.' Reply to Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. H. On November 4, 2014, defendants removed the case to this court. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, to compel arbitration that same day. The court held a hearing on December 18, 2014 on the motion to dismiss, or alternatively, to compel arbitration. The court also granted leave for Waring to file an amended complaint.

         On December 23, 2014, Waring filed an amended complaint, alleging eight causes of action: (1) violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”); (2) retaliation in violation of the FLSA; (3) breach of contract; (4) violation of the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act (“SCPWA”); (5) defamation; (6) violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act (“SCUTPA”); (7) abuse of process; and (8) malicious prosecution. The amended complaint added Shapiro and CareAlliance as defendants and added two causes of action for abuse of process and malicious prosecution. On February 12, 2015, defendants filed a motion to dismiss Waring's defamation and SCUTPA claims. Waring responded on March 2, 2015, and defendants filed a reply on March 12, 2015. The court held a hearing on April 14, 2015. The court instructed defendants that it was not necessary to refile their motion to dismiss at that time. The court notified the parties by letter dated June 4, 2015 that it was inclined to compel arbitration. ECF No. 64, Ex. 3. The parties mediated the action on May 29, 2015 before mediator Jon Austen, in accordance with the court's scheduling order requiring the parties to do so. ECF No. 43.

         On June 29, 2015, Waring filed a letter with the court requesting a status conference and stating, in relevant part, that during discovery, “depositions were taken and there is testimony indicating that after [Waring's] employment ended[, ] [d]efendants took actions that [Waring] contend[s] were not related to her employment, and, thus, not subject to arbitration.” ECF No. 54. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on June 30, 2015. Waring responded to the motion for summary judgment on July 17, 2015, and defendants replied on July 27, 2015.

         In response to Waring's request, the court scheduled a status conference for August 12, 2015. The court allowed Waring to file supplemental briefing to address the issue. ECF No. 63. On August 20, 2015, the court requested that defendants file a supplemental motion to compel arbitration that addressed the arbitration agreement's application to the additional defendants and additional claims added in the amended complaint. ECF No. 64, Ex. 2. The court also instructed the parties to address the additional issues that arose after depositions, including those that Waring referenced in her letter to the court requesting a status conference. Id. On August 31, 2015, defendants filed a supplemental memorandum. ECF No. 64. Waring responded on September 9, 2015. ECF No. 64. On September 30, 2015, the court issued an order compelling arbitration, noting that Waring's supplemental briefing was “larg[ely] a recitation of the facts underlying each claim rather than a brief in support of their opposition to defendants' motion to compel arbitration.” ECF No. 69 at 8.

         Defendants filed the present motion for attorney's fees on October 14, 2015. Defendants request $24, 849.50 for work associated with the successful motion to dismiss. In support of the reasonableness of the fees, defendants attach the affidavit of Katherine Helms, defendants' attorney, attesting to the time spent on the matter and the reasonableness of the fees. Defs.' Mot. Ex. A. Defendants also attach the billing records of the time spent on this matter from October 14, 2014 to September 30, 2015. Id. Waring filed a response in opposition to the motion on November 2, 2015. On November 24, 2015, Waring filed her Arbitration Complaint. Defs.' Supp. Mot. Ex. A. Defendants filed an answer to Waring's complaint on January 29, 201. Defs.' Resp. 1. In her Arbitration Complaint, Waring abandoned her FLSA claims, the breach of contract ...

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