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Ellicott v. American Capital Energy Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 3, 2017

STEPHEN ELLICOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN CAPITAL ENERGY, INC., THOMAS HUNTON, and ARTHUR HENNESSEY, Defendants. Fees Costs

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS

          F. DENNIS SAYLOR IV UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Stephen Ellicott brought this action against his former employer, American Capital Energy, Inc. (“ACE”), and its two principals, Thomas Hunton and Arthur Hennessey, seeking compensation for unpaid wages. The complaint brought two counts under state law, alleging a violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 148, and breach of contract. On February 6, 2017, following a jury trial, the Court issued a judgment in favor of plaintiff on both counts. Plaintiff has moved for attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 150. For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         ACE is a solar-energy company that sells large-scale solar energy projects to commercial clients. Ellicott is a former sales employee at ACE. Thomas Hunton and Arthur Hennessey are principals of ACE.

         On April 2, 2014, Ellicott brought this action seeking compensation for unpaid commissions. The complaint alleged two counts under Massachusetts state law, claiming a violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 148, and breach of contract.

         When Ellicott brought the complaint, he was represented by attorneys Mark Pogue and Nathanael Nichols of the law firm Locke Lord LLP. Those attorneys withdrew from the case on April 10, 2015. They were replaced by two partners at the law firm Kenney & Sams, P.C., Christopher Kenney and Anthony DeProspo.

         In the months following that change of counsel, Ellicott litigated this action vigorously. He brought a motion to amend the complaint, a motion for summary judgment, a motion for a real-estate attachment and a reach-and-apply injunction, a motion for injunctive relief, a motion for a preliminary injunction, and multiple motions in limine, as well as opposed multiple motions by defendants.

         In January 2017, the case was tried to a jury. The jury returned a verdict in Ellicott's favor, finding defendants liable under both counts. The jury further found that Ellicott was owed $958, 830 in lost wages. Those damages were trebled pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 150 for a total award of $2, 876, 490 under the Massachusetts Wage Act.

         Plaintiff has moved for an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 150.

         II. Analysis

         A. Reasonable Attorneys' Fees

         Plaintiff requests attorneys' fees for 1, 317.4 hours of work at a total charge of $487, 150.

         That time was billed by three attorneys at Kenney & Sams, P.C., two of whom are partners (Kenney and DeProspo) and one of whom is an associate (Jaimeson E. Porter).

         1. Standard for Calculating Reasonable Attorneys' Fees

         A plaintiff who prevails on a Wage Act claim is entitled to a mandatory award of “reasonable attorneys' fees.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 150; see also Lipsitt v. Plaud, 466 Mass. 240, 250 (2013). Both the First Circuit and Massachusetts courts generally follow the so-called “lodestar” method for evaluating the reasonableness of a fee application. See Tennessee Gas Pipeline ...


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