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Zuraf v. Clearview Eye Care, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

April 27, 2017

JAMES ZURAF Plaintiff,
v.
CLEARVIEW EYE CARE, INC., D/B/A COASTAL VISION, Defendant,

          MEMORANDUM ORDER & OPINION

          Raymond A. Jackson United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Attorney's fees. The parties have fully briefed this matter, and a hearing is unnecessary to resolve the instant Motion. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion for Attorneys' Fees is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         A. Facts

         This action arises from Defendants' alleged wrongful termination and the failure to hire Plaintiff because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Compl. ¶ 11. Plaintiff was born on September 15, 1954, and he worked as a Virginia State Licensed Optician. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 20. In April 1997, "Dr. Hal W. Breedlove, O.D., P.C. operating under the trade name Coastal Vision Center ("Coastal Vision") hired Plaintiff as Practice Manager." Compl. ¶ 22. As Practice Manager, "Plaintiff managed the daily operations of Coastal Vision, " and his "main duties included, but were not limited to: hiring and firing of staff, preparing payroll, handling human resources issues, negotiating and executing vendor contracts, purchasing frames, lenses, and equipment, and resolving patients' complaints." Compl. ¶¶ 24, 25. The Complaint alleges that Dr. Breedlove "was the only owner of Coastal Vision, but he employed Wang, S. Nilsson, and Lin-Nilsson as optometrists at his practice." Compl. ¶ 28. The Complaint further avers that "Defendants subjected Plaintiff to disparaging comments about his age." Compl. ¶ 30.

         According to the Complaint, "[i]n or around May of 2013, Wang, S. Nilsson, Lin-Nilsson announced that they, together with Beach and Clearview, were purchasing Coastal Vision from Breedlove" and "introduced themselves as the 'new owners' of Coastal Vision to all employees, vendors and patients." Compl. ¶¶ 31, 32. Then, "[o]n or about August 16, 2013, Wang and Lin Nilsson conducted a meeting with Plaintiff to discuss his employment under the new ownership of Coastal Vision. Wang and Lin-Nilsson stated that upon completion of the sale of the practice. Plaintiff would be terminated." Compl. ¶ 33. Plaintiff claims that he "stated he was interested in remaining with Coastal Vision in the capacity of an Optician at lower pay rate." Compl. ¶ 34. The Complaint alleges that "[o]n or about August 16, 2013, Plaintiff applied for an Optician position." Compl. ¶ 35. Although "Wang stated that he would discuss the option of hiring Plaintiff as an Optician with the other owners, and that he would set up a meeting to interview Plaintiff, " Compl. ¶ 36, "[o]n August 27, 2013, S. Nilsson informed Plaintiff that he would not be re-hired or considered for any position at Coastal Vision, including both the Practice Manager and Optician positions, " Compl. ¶ 38.

         Breedlove's sale of Coastal Vision to Clearview, Beach, Wang, S. Nilsson, and Lin Nilsson occurred on or about September 6, 2013. Compl. ¶ 39. That same day, "Clearview, Beach, Wang, S. Nilsson, and Lin-Nilsson terminated Plaintiff." Compl. ¶ 40. According to the Complaint, "all of the employees of Coastal Vision, with the exception of Plaintiff, were interviewed by Wang, S. Nilsson, Lin-Nilsson, and Beach, " and were not terminated. Compl. ¶¶ 43, 44. Both the Practice Manager position and the Optician position were "filled by a person who was substantially younger than Plaintiff." Compl. ¶¶ 71, 72.

         The Complaint additionally alleges that "at the relevant times alleged herein, Defendants were operating either as Clearview Eye Care, Inc. or were operating as general partners." Compl. ¶ 4. Furthermore, "Clearview has at least 15 employees." Compl. ¶ 5. According to the Complaint, "Defendants qualify as an 'employer' as set forth in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 [("ADEA")], as codified, 29 U.S.C.§§ 621 et seq." Compl. ¶ 10. Plaintiff claims he "filed a Charge of Discrimination against Clearview Eye care, Inc. [sic] d/b/a Coastal Vision and its owners for the unlawful employment practices set forth herein with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and did so within the required time limits specified by law and regulation." Compl. ¶ 16. The EEOC sent Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue on or about September 28, 2015. Compl. ¶ 17; Compl., Ex. 1. The Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue states that Plaintiff "may file a lawsuit against the respondents);" however, it does not appear that the Notice identified the respondents) by name. Compl., Ex. 1. B.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed the Complaint on December 23, 2015. ECF No. 1. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Award Fees on February 26, 2016. ECF Nos. 4, 6. Plaintiff responded in opposition to both motions on March 8, 2016. ECF Nos. 11 and 12. Plaintiff also filed a Cross Motion to Award Fees on March 8, 2016. ECF No. 13. Defendants replied on March 11, 2016, ECF Nos. 15 and 16, and the Court partially granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and denied Defendant's Motion for Attorney Fees on August 9, 2016. ECF No. 17.

         Plaintiff moved for Default Entry against the remaining Defendant on August 25, 2016, ECF No. 18, and the Clerk entered default judgment that same day pursuant to 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 19. Defendant filed a response in opposition to the Clerk's default entry on August 26, 2016, ECF No. 20, and filed a Rebuttal Brief on August 29, 2016. ECF No. 21.

         Defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint on September 20, 2016. ECF No. 25. The Court issued a Rule 16(b) Scheduling Order on October 27, 2016. ECF No. 27.

         Defendant moved for a Settlement Conference on November 4, 2016. ECF No. 28. Defendant also moved for clarification of the Court's Order on November 5, 2016. ECF No. 29. Plaintiff responded in opposition to both motions on November 14, 2016. ECF Nos. 30 and 31. Plaintiff also moved for attorney fees, and filed a supporting memorandum, on November 14, 2016. ECF Nos. 32 and 33.

         Defendant filed Rebuttal Briefs for both the Motion for Clarification and the Motion for Settlement Conference, ECF Nos. 34 and 35, as well as a response in opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Attorney fees on November 17, 2016. ECF No. 36. The Court denied Defendant's Motion for a Settlement Conference on ...


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