Family disability in education lawsuit receives modified attorneys’ fees

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The Third Circuit ruled that the Pennsylvania family that won the IDEA case was entitled to higher attorney’s fees.

SDL secured a major concession for her son TD, who was a third grader in the Pocono Mountain School District in 2011, after lengthy litigation. A district court awarded the family substantially less attorney fees than they had asked for, but the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Tuesday Command lower court for reconsideration.

  • Numerous appeals and joint appeals have been filed regarding alleged indifference and discrimination in the school district, the family’s eligibility for compensation for compensatory education, TD’s status as a disabled student, and legal attorney’s fees. While litigation was pending, the school district paid five years of TD private school tuition at the request of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Special Education
  • The district court concluded that the solicitors’ fees for all hours related to the reimbursement of tuition fees were to be denied, such claims being quashed on appeal. It also found that the hours spent and the percentage of fees were excessive, and that TD was not entitled to the attorneys’ fees incurred in preparing the various petitions for attorneys’ fees.
  • The district court awarded TD about $127,000, instead of about $617,000 that had been requested. It also awarded about $9,000 in litigation costs
  • The appeals court said the 60% fee reduction was a mistake. Although the appeals court had previously cleared the lower court’s ruling as it related to IDEA eligibility and tuition reimbursement as meritocratic, since the school district had already paid the tuition, that did not negate TD’s status as the prevailing party, As the Fifth District said.
  • The court added that “a complete refusal of all fees related to a request for attorneys’ fees is inappropriate.”

Judge Marjorie O.

King, Spry, Herman, Freund & Faul LLC represents the Pocono Mountain School District. McAndrews, Mehalick, Connolly, Hulse & Ryan represented PC TD and SDL

the case Pocono Mountain St. Dist. against TD, 3d Circ., No. 22-1787, unpublished 4/18/23.