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Marshall v. Rio Grande River Limited Partnership

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 18, 2016

JOHN MARSHALL, Plaintiff,
v.
RIO GRANDE RIVER LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, a Massachusetts Limited Partnership, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

WILLIAM G. YOUNG DISTRICT JUD5GE.

I. INTRODUCTION

John Marshall ("Marshall") brought this suit against Rio Grande River Limited Partnership ("Rio Grande") alleging that Rio Grande's property at 2343 Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts (the "Property") had architectural barriers that prevented Marshall from entering it, see Compl. 1-2, ECF No. 1, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213. Virtually on the eve of trial Marshall and Rio Grande agreed to settle. See Settlement Order Dismissal, ECF No. 91. Thereafter, Rio Grande tried to back out of the agreement, but this Court denied its motion to do so, see Decree Enforcing Settlement ("Decree") 1, ECF No. 100, and entered Final Judgment in favor of Marshall, Final J. 1, ECF No. 104. Marshall requested attorneys' fees and expenses. See PL's Mot. Att'ys' Fees Related Expenses ("PL's Fees Mot."), ECF No. 108; PL's Mem. Supp. Mot. Att'ys Fees and Related Expenses ("PL's Mem. Supp."), ECF No. 112. Rio Grande opposed his request. See Substitute Def.'s Opp. PL's Mot. Att'ys' Fees Related Expenses ("Def.'s Opp'n"), ECF No. 116.

Marshall asks for a total of $150, 685.00 in attorneys' fees and $8, 853.80 in costs and expenses, PL's Reply Mem. Supp. Mot. Att'ys Fees and Related Expenses ("PL's Reply") 1, ECF No. 121. Rio Grande claims the number of hours billed is excessive, and the hourly rates are unreasonable. Def.'s Opp'n 1.

A. Factual Background

Marshall, moving for fees and costs, and Rio Grande, opposing his request, each have asserted certain foundational facts relevant to Marshall's motion that are effectively undisputed. The Court briefly recounts them before delving into its analysis.

Marshall's complaint alleged that the Property, which consists of two banks, has architectural barriers - steps without a ramp or lift - that prevent Marshall, a partial amputee in a wheelchair, from accessing it, in violation of the ADA. Compl. SI 11; see 42 U.S.C. § 12182 (stating that a person who operates a place of public accommodation cannot discriminate against individuals on the basis of disability).

Marshall is represented by Louis Mussman ("Mussman") of Ku & Mussman, P.A., [1] and Ashley Forest ("Forest"), who serves as local counsel for Marshall. Compl. 5.

Marshall hired an expert to evaluate the Property. PL's Mem. Supp. 4. Nicholas Heybeck ("Heybeck") traveled from Houston, Texas to the Property to prepare a report. Id. Heybeck also evaluated Rio Grande's expert report and assisted in Marshall's settlement attempts. Id. In addition, Heybeck prepared for and completed "a deposition by written questions." Id.

Rio Grande plans on redeveloping the Property into a mixed-use commercial building. Def.'s Opp'n 5. The Property currently consists of one building that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. See Opp'n Mot. Att'ys Fees and Related Expenses, Ex. 3, Re: Dudley Station Historic District, Roxbury, Massachusetts, ECF No. 115-3. Rio Grande plans to renovate the property by adding an additional building and an underground parking lot. Opp'n Mot. Att'ys Fees and Related Expenses, Ex. 23, Aff. Kenneth Guscott 2, ECF No. 115-23. The additional building would meet the accessibility requirements of the ADA, as well as make the original building accessible. Def.'s Opp'n 2.

B. Procedural History

At the initial case management scheduling conference on December 11, 2013, the Court placed this case on the December 2014 running trial list. Am. Joint Proposed Case Management Schedule 1-2, ECF No. 20. The case was continued and placed on the March 2015 running trial list following an error. Elec. Notice Rescheduling, ECF No. 38. On February 25, 2015, the parties reported the case settled but for the determination of attorneys' fees. Settlement Order Dismissal, ECF No. 91. The Court entered a decree in accordance with the settlement. Decree 1. The Decree required, among other things, that Rio Grande complete its redevelopment of the Property as it had planned, which included making the Property and the additional building compliant with the accessibility requirements of the ADA. Id. at 2-3.

C. Marshall's Request

Marshall has provided an itemized bill of the hours worked by Mussman, Forest, and two paralegals, T. Rose ("Rose") and R. Sarmiento ("Sarmiento") on this matter. PL's Mem. Supp., Ex. 3, Marshall v. Rio Grande River Itemized Billing (''Itemized Attorney Billing"), ECF No. 112-3. The itemized billing has several discounts, including reduced hours for discussions and review of co-counsel and non-productive travel time. See Id. It also includes an estimated time entered for anticipated future hours billed. Id. Marshall provided an updated document with a final cost for Mussman's services, while the other costs remained the same. PL's Reply 10. The bill stretches over three years, and the total for the four lawyers comes to $150, 685.00.[2] Id. Heybeck is Marshall's expert for this case, and has submitted his bill, which Marshall seeks to ...


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