United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS (Dkt. No.
KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the court is Plaintiff Grace Boadi's
("Plaintiff") motion for attorneys' fees and
costs filed in accordance with 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(3).
Plaintiff's motion follows a jury's finding that
Plaintiff's former employer, the Center for Human
Development ("CHD"), and her former supervisor,
Candy Pennington (collectively "Defendants"), were
liable for interfering with Plaintiff's rights under the
Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C.
parties have consented to this court's jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73.
Plaintiff requests attorneys' fees and costs of $225,
405.99. Defendants have opposed the motion and Plaintiff has
responded to Defendants' opposition. For the reasons that
follow, the court awards Plaintiff $196, 293 in
attorneys' fees and $16, 137.99 in costs for a total of
following summary of the facts and procedural history is
provided as background for the determination of a reasonable
case arose out of a series of events that culminated in
Defendants terminating Plaintiff's employment on April
21, 2013 while she was hospitalized. During the seven day
period beginning on Sunday, April 14, 2013, Plaintiff was
scheduled to work from Wednesday, April 17, through Sunday,
April 21, 2013. She was hospitalized due to the sudden onset
of a mental impairment from April 15 through April 24, 2013.
On five occasions during Plaintiff's hospitalization,
Plaintiff's son, James Takyi, notified Pennington and
other CHD personnel that Plaintiff was very sick, was in the
hospital, and was not able to work. Notwithstanding these
notices, CHD terminated Plaintiff's employment as of
April 21, 2013 due to her failure to personally notify CHD of
her absences from work as its call-in policy required. CHD
maintained its position that Plaintiff had abandoned her job
and voluntarily resigned and denied Plaintiff FMLA leave
after she presented Defendants with proof of her
hospitalization and her physician's certification that
she would be able to return to her full duties in a month.
September 5, 2014, Plaintiff sued CHD and Pennington for
interfering with her rights under the FMLA and for violating
the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the
Massachusetts anti-discrimination statute, Mass. Gen. Laws
ch. 151B ("Chapter 151B") (Dkt. No.
On March 6, 2017, the court granted summary judgment in
Defendants' favor as to the ADA and Chapter 151B claims
and denied it as to Plaintiff's FMLA interference claim
(Dkt. No. 84). See Boadi v. Ctr. for Human Dev.,
Inc., 239 F.Supp.3d 333, 355 (Mass. 2017). Thereafter,
Defendants moved for a psychological examination of Plaintiff
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 35, Plaintiff contested the motion,
and the court denied it on May 31, 2017 (Dkt. Nos. 74, 76,
case was referred for alternative dispute resolution
("ADR") on April 3, 2017 and an ADR hearing was
scheduled for April 13, 2017 (Dkt. Nos. 90, 91). Counsel
complied with the court's order to provide mediation
memoranda (Dkt. No. 95; Dkt. No. 134-1 at 23). On April 12,
2017, Plaintiff's counsel notified the court that
Plaintiff no longer wished to engage in mediation, and the
ADR hearing, which was scheduled for the next day, was
cancelled (Dkt. No. 95).
jury trial commenced on June 19, 2017 (Dkt. No. 117).
Plaintiff's case included the testimony of an expert, Dr.
Frederick Kadushin, who opined that Plaintiff was not capable
of following CHD's call-in policies and procedures while
she was hospitalized. On June 23, 2017, the jury found that
Plaintiff had a "serious health condition" as
defined by the FMLA, that she or her spokesperson provided
adequate notice of her need for FMLA leave, and that
Defendants were liable for interfering with her FMLA rights
(Dkt. No. 129). The jury awarded Plaintiff $112, 592.34 for
lost wages and $29, 448.90 for lost benefits from April 21,
2013 through the date of the verdict, for a total of $142,
041.24 plus interest (id.). On September 21, 2017,
the court awarded Plaintiff liquidated damages in an amount
equal to lost wages and benefits, $142, 041.24, plus interest
(Dkt. No. 144). See 29 U.S.C. §
court in . . . an [FMLA] action shall, in addition to any
judgment awarded to the plaintiff, allow a reasonable
attorney's fee, reasonable expert witness fees, and other
costs of the action to be paid by the defendant." 29
U.S.C. § 2617(a)(3). Plaintiff seeks $209, 268 in fees
for the work of two attorneys, Dawn D. McDonald and Shawn M.
Willis, and a paralegal. Attorney McDonald's itemized
billing statement charges $300 per hour, while Attorney
Willis charges $275, and the paralegal charges $150 (Dkt. No.
134-1 at 36). Plaintiff seeks $180, 780 for 602.60 hours of
work Attorney McDonald performed beginning on March 20, 2015
when she took over the case from Attorney Willis
(id. at 6). Attorney Willis' fees are $19, 635
for 71.40 hours of work and the paralegal's fees are $8,
853 for 59.02 hours (id. at 36). Plaintiff also
seeks $16, 137.99 in expert witness fees and costs.
Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion on various grounds.
fees are calculated by determining a 'lodestar
amount' and then, if necessary, adjusting that amount to
ensure that the fee amount is reasonable." Cheng v.
Romo, Civil Action No. 11-10007-DJC, 2014 WL 882796, at
*1 (D. Mass. Mar. 6, 2014) (citing Pennsylvania v. Del.
Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S.
546, 564-65 (1986)). "Federal courts in this circuit
customarily use the lodestar approach to determine fee
amounts." Id. (citing Burke v.
MacDonald, 572 F.3d 51, 56 n.5 (1st Cir. 2009)). In
calculating this lodestar amount, the judge "applies
prevailing rates in the community (taking into account the
qualifications, experience, and specialized competence of the
attorneys involved)" to the time counsel spent on the
case, reduced by "duplicative, unproductive, or
excessive hours." Gay Officers Action League v.
Puerto Rico, 247 F.3d 288, 295 (1st Cir. 2001). See
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-34 (1983);
Lipsett v. Blanco, 975 F.2d 934, 937 (1st Cir.
1992). In making this calculation, "'the presiding
judge must "draw on [her] own experience and wisdom
[in] deciding whether the time spent on each phase was in
excess of a reasonable amount."'" Alfonso
v. Aufiero, 66 F.Supp.2d 183, 192 (D. Mass. 1999)
(quoting United States v. Metro. Dist. Comm'n,
847 F.2d 12, 18 (1st Cir. 1988)) (alterations in original).
party seeking an award of attorneys' fees bears the
burden of establishing and documenting the hours expended and
the hourly rates charged." Cheng, 2014 WL
882796, at *1 (citing Torres-Rivera v.
O'Neill-Cancel,524 F.3d 331, 340 (1st Cir. 2008)).
Plaintiff's lead counsel, Attorney Dawn D. McDonald,
submitted thirty-four pages of invoices, which appropriately
itemized the amount of time each member of her law firm spent
on specific tasks (134-1 at 2-36). Counsel did not use
disfavored "block billing" as Defendants allege
(Dkt. No. 136 at 5-6). See E.E.O.C. v. AutoZone,
Inc., 934 F.Supp.2d 342, 354 (D. Mass. 2013)
("'Block billing' is an industry term used to
describe 'the time keeping method by which an attorney
lumps together the total daily time spent working on a case,
rather than itemizing the time expended on specific