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Marshall v. The Rawlings Co., LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

June 15, 2018

GLORIA MARSHALL, PLAINTIFF
v.
THE RAWLINGS CO., LLC, DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon Motion by Plaintiff Gloria Marshall, (“Plaintiff”), for reasonable attorneys' fees and an award of expenses and costs. [DN 203.] This matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that attorneys' fees be awarded in the amount of $226, 015 and that costs be awarded in the amount of $5, 080.25. The Court's calculations and reasoning are explained in detail below.

         A. Factual and Procedural Background

         This case stems from events which transpired at the offices of Defendant The Rawlings Company, LLC, (“Rawlings”), during the course of Plaintiff's employment there. In short, Plaintiff suffers from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, (“PTSD”), for which she took various stints of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, (“FMLA”), while working for Rawlings. Throughout the time period during which Plaintiff was taking that leave, she alleged that she suffered discriminatory and retaliatory treatment, the culmination of which was her demotion from Team Lead, a managerial position, back to analyst, a lower position hierarchically, and her eventual termination from the company on October 1, 2013.

         Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Rawlings alleging claims of (1) FMLA Interference/Discrimination, (2) FMLA retaliation, (3) Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) discrimination, and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. This Court granted summary judgment in favor of Rawlings on all four of Plaintiff's claims. Upon review, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this Court's judgment in part, and reversed it in part, remanding Plaintiff's claims for FMLA retaliation and ADA discrimination. See Marshall v. The Rawlings Co., LLC, 854 F.3d 368 (6th Cir. 2017). Eventually, a jury trial was held in this matter from March 26, 2018 to March 30, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky, wherein Plaintiff's two remaining claims were tried.

         At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found in favor of Plaintiff on her claims of ADA discrimination relating to her demotion and termination and found for Rawlings on her claims of FMLA retaliation relating to her demotion and termination. As a result, the jury awarded Plaintiff $456, 000. More specifically, with respect to her claim for ADA discrimination relating to her demotion, the jury awarded her the following sums: $81, 000 in back pay; $75, 000 for pain and suffering; and $75, 000 in punitive damages. With respect to her claim for ADA discrimination relating to her termination, the jury awarded her the following sums: $75, 000 in front pay; $75, 000 for pain and suffering; and $75, 000 in punitive damages. [See DN 193.]

         Presently, Plaintiff has filed the instant Motion seeking the sum of $241, 360 for reasonable attorneys' fees and $5, 080.25 in related costs and expenses in pursuing this matter. [See DN 203-1, at 1.] Plaintiff was represented in this case by three attorneys: Jill Guarascio, Chris Sanders, and Robyn Smith. The $241, 360 represents a requested billing rate for all three attorneys of $350 per hour, multiplied by 689.6 hours billed in total. [Id. at 1-3.] The $5, 080.25 represents what Plaintiff's counsel describes as “pre-trial deposition and transcript costs, ” “filing costs, ” and “trial deposition expenses.” [Id. at 18-19.]

         B. Discussion

         The two main requests for relief presented in Plaintiff's instant Motion are her requests for (a) attorneys' fees incurred in litigating this action, and (b) the expenses and costs incurred doing the same. The Court will analyze these issues separately.

         1. Plaintiff's Request for Attorneys' Fees

         The first issue is Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees. According to the instant Motion and the exhibits attached thereto, between the three attorneys who worked on this case on Plaintiff's behalf, Guarascio, Sanders and Smith, a total of 689.6 hours were spent pursuing this matter. [DN 203-1, at 3.] Additionally, Plaintiff's attorneys have asked that the hourly rate be set at $350 per hour for all three of them, which results in a total requested fee of $241, 360. [Id. at 1.]

         a. Legal Background

         “In the United States, parties are ordinarily required to bear their own attorney's fees- the prevailing party is not entitled to collect from the loser.” Buckhannon Bd. and Care Home, Inc. v. W.Va. Dept. of Health and Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 602 (2001) (citing Alyeska Pipeline Serv. Co. v. Wilderness Soc'y, 421 U.S. 240, 247 (1975)). Thus, “[u]nder this ‘American Rule, ' we follow ‘a general practice of not awarding fees to a prevailing party absent explicit statutory authority.'” Id. (quoting Key Tronic Corp. v. United States, 511 U.S. 809, 819 (1994)). However, “[p]ursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 12205, a court presiding over an ADA action ‘may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee, including litigation expenses, and costs.” Baker v. Windsor Republic Doors, 414 Fed.Appx. 764, 780 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12205).

         “The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the No. of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. This calculation provides an objective basis on which to make an initial estimate of the value of a lawyer's services.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). Of course, in so seeking an award of attorneys' fees, the movant “should submit evidence supporting the hours worked and rates claimed. Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly.” Id. The resultant product of the above equation is referred to as the “lodestar.” See Adcock-Ladd v. Sec'y of Treasury, 227 F.3d 343, 349 (6th Cir. 2000). The term “lodestar” means “a star that leads or guides, ” such as the North Star;[1] in the legal world, the lodestar provides district courts with a baseline number, a guiding figure concerning what is a “reasonable” fee under the particular circumstances of a given case.

         After determining the lodestar, “[t]he trial judge may then, within limits, adjust the ‘lodestar' to reflect relevant considerations peculiar to the subject litigation.” Id. (citing Reed v. Rhodes, 179 F.3d 453, 471-72 (6th Cir. 1999)). In so doing, district courts may look to the twelve factors listed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the seminal case of Johnson v. Georgia Hwy. Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974). These twelve factors are:

(1) the time and labor required by a given case;
(2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions presented;
(3) the skill needed to perform the legal service properly;
(4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case;
(5) the customary fee;
(6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent;
(7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances;
(8) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys;
(10) the “undesirability” of the case;
(11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) ...

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