A recent Law 360 by Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, “CSX Hits Back at $14M Atty Fee Bid in Norfolk Southern Case,” reports that CSX Transportation Inc. has urged a Virginia federal judge not to award Norfolk Southern Railway Co. and a smaller railroad $14 million in attorney fees for beating back its antitrust claims, arguing that Virginia's state law does not allow it. In a memorandum, CSX also said that no contractual provision between the parties allows an award for attorney fees as Virginia law requires, and the Sherman Act does not mandate that a defendant obtain a fee award for prevailing on a suit.
According to CSX, Virginia law mandates that successful claims be supported by "a statutory or contractual right" to attorney fees. Therefore, if at all possible, the only claims Norfolk Southern and Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad Co. can seek are those related to their defense of CSX's injunctive-relief request under the Virginia's business conspiracy law, CSX added.
However, CSX also noted that the railway companies did not cite "a single decision" in the history of the Virginia statute "in which a court has awarded a prevailing defendant attorneys' fees." The years-long litigation ended in April, when U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis sided with Norfolk Southern and Belt Line and dismissed the suit, finding that CSX's claims were time-barred.
The companies filed separate motions on May 3 in an effort to get the court to order CSX to pay their court costs and attorney fees. While Norfolk Southern estimates its costs and fees at around $11 million, the Belt Line put forth a much lower estimate of $3 million. Belt Line argued that CSX must pay because Virginia law says prevailing defendants in a conspiracy case where plaintiffs requested injunctive relief are entitled to costs and attorney fees.
"Whether CSX sought money damages or injunctive relief, its core set of facts was identical for all claims, and therefore the Belt Line's entitlement to costs and attorneys' fees encompasses its efforts to overcome them all," the interchange railroad said. However, CSX disagreed Wednesday, claiming that the statute does not mandate that losing plaintiffs pay attorney fees. Instead, CSX said, the law requires only "a potential discretionary fee award for those fees specifically attributable to the state-conspiracy injunctive-relief remedy."