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United States of America v. Egan Marine Corporation

October 2, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EGAN MARINE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Egan Marine Corporation ("EMC") seeks an award of attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (the "EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. For the reasons stated herein, EMC's Fee Petition is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court declines to delve into a detailed version of the factual background in this case, as the Court provided one at an earlier date in its entry of judgment after the bench trial. See United States v. Egan Marine Corp., No. 08-C-3160, 2011 WL 8144393 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 13, 2011). Thus, an abbreviated version of the facts follows.

On January 19, 2005, the barge EMC 423 exploded in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near the Cicero Avenue Bridge. At the time of the explosion, a tugboat owned by EMC was transporting the barge. On the date of the explosion, EMC 423 was carrying a load of Clarified Slurry Oil, oil that emits flammable vapors. On this trip, the flammable vapors ignited and exploded, sinking the EMC 423 and ultimately causing oil and oil solids to leak into the Canal. At the time of the incident, EMC employee Alex Oliva ("Oliva") was on board the EMC 423 and died as a result of the explosion.

On June 2, 2008, the Government filed this civil suit against EMC. On September 12, 2011, the parties proceeded to trial. At trial, the Government specifically alleged two claims under the Oil Pollution Act (the "OPA"), civil penalties under the OPA, and a claim under the Rivers and Harbors Act.

After an eight-day bench trial, this Court entered judgment for EMC on the Government's two OPA claims, finding that the Government failed to meet its burden of proof regarding EMC's alleged gross negligence in the incident. The Court found in favor of the Government on the civil penalty claim, issuing a penalty of $100,000 against EMC as a result of the oil discharge. Finally, the Court entered judgment in favor of EMC on the Government's Rivers and Harbors Act claim, determining that the Government waived this claim by failing to address it in its post-trial briefing.

On January 11, 2012, EMC filed this Fee Petition under the EAJA seeking attorney's fees and other expenses. EMC alleges it is entitled to such fees because the Government did not have substantial justification in its filing of this action and acted in bad faith.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"The EAJA departs from the general rule that each party to a lawsuit pays his or her own legal fees." Scarborough v. Principi, 541 U.S. 401, 404 (2004). The EAJA provides that a district court may award reasonable attorneys' fees where: (1) the party seeking fees is a "prevailing party"; (2) the government's position was not substantially justified; (3) no "special circumstances make an award unjust"; and (4) the fee application submitted to the court is within 30 days of final judgment and is supported by an itemized statement. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2412(d)(1)(A), (B); (d)(2)(A); United States v. Thouvenot, Wade & Moerschen, Inc., 596 F.3d 378 (7th Cir. 2010). Costs are also available under 28 U.S.C. § 2412(a)(1). Section (b) of the EAJA also provides for the recovery of attorneys' fees and expenses against the Government "to the same extent that any other party would be liable under the common law or under the terms of any statute which specifically provides for such an award." 28 U.S.C. § 2412(b).

EMC argues it is entitled to fees and expenses under both Section (d) and Section (b) of the EAJA. EMC argues that the Government was not substantially justified in bringing this action and acted in bad faith.

The Government opposes EMC's motion arguing, among other things, that (1) it was substantially justified in pursuing this lawsuit, (2) it did not act in bad faith, and (3) EMC's request for costs is untimely.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Substantial ...


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