Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cox v. Massachusetts Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 10, 2019

WILLIAM COX, Plaintiff,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, Defendant.

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

          F. Dennis Saylor, IV United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         This is an action brought by a mentally-disabled state prisoner asserting claims under the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Plaintiff William Cox brought this action against defendant Department of Corrections (“DOC”) contending that he was the victim of discrimination on the basis of disability. Among other things, Cox contended that he was denied adequate access to (1) procedures to obtain medical care, (2) procedures to report and resolve grievances, (3) procedures to report physical or sexual assaults, and (4) use of telephones. After a trial, a jury found in his favor on those claims, and awarded him money damages.[1] Cox has moved for an order awarding attorneys' fees, litigation costs, and other expenses pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12205. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         II. Background

         On February 25, 2013, Cox brought suit against the DOC and a variety of DOC officials in their individual capacities, alleging that defendants' deliberate indifference resulted in violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

         After a series of motions, the Court dismissed the majority of the claims. The only remaining claims were a § 1983 claim against Steven J. O'Brien, the Superintendent of the Massachusetts Department of Correction, in his official capacity, and an ADA claim against the DOC. The jury returned a verdict in favor of O'Brien, but found against the DOC on most of the ADA claims, finding that plaintiff lacked meaningful access to (1) procedures to obtain medical care; (2) procedures to report and resolve grievances; (3) procedures to report physical or sexual threats or assaults; and (4) use of telephones. (ECF No. 199 at 1-2).[2]

         The jury awarded damages in the amount of $250, 000, broken down between the different claims as follows: $50, 000 for lack of access to procedures to obtain medical care; $25, 000 for lack of access to procedures to report and resolve grievances; $150, 000 for lack of access to procedures to report physical and sexual threats or assaults; and $25, 000 for lack of access to telephones. (Id. at 3).

         The DOC then filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Court granted the motion in part as to the claim for access to telephones. The DOC also filed a motion for remittitur. The Court granted the motion in part as to the claim for procedures to report and resolve grievances, lowering that award from $25, 000 to $1, 000. The Court thus lowered the overall award from $250, 000 to $201, 000.[3]

         Cox has moved for an award of costs and attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12205 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d). He seeks a total of $731, 307.50 in attorneys' fees and $5, 039.37 in expenses.[4] Attorney Rosemary Scapicchio has requested (1) compensation for 541.8 hours of legal work at a rate of $750 per hour and compensation for 4.6 hours of travel at a rate of $175 per hour, for a total award of $407, 155 in attorney's fees, and (2) $4, 960.93 in expenses. Attorney Amy Codagnone has requested (1) compensation for 919.7 hours of legal work at a rate of $350 per hour and compensation for 12.9 hours of travel at a rate of $175 per hour, for a total award of $324, 152.50 in attorney's fees, and (2) $78.44 in expenses.

         DOC has opposed the motion as unreasonable, excessive, and based on duplicative work. It requests that the Court reduce the rates, apply lower rates for “non-core” time, and reduce the overall award.

         III. Analysis

         The ADA provides that “[i]n any action . . . commenced pursuant to this chapter, the court or agency, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee.” 42 U.S.C. § 12205. In the First Circuit, courts follow the so-called “lodestar” method for calculating reasonable attorneys' fees. Tenn. Gas Pipeline Co. v. 104 Acres of Land, 32 F.3d 632, 634 (1st Cir. 1994); see also Hutchinson v. Patrick, 636 F.3d 1, 13 (1st Cir. 2011). The lodestar method involves “multiplying the number of hours productively spent by a reasonable hourly rate to calculate a base figure.” Torres-Rivera v. O'Neill-Cancel, 524 F.3d 331, 336 (1st Cir. 2008) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)).

         In fashioning the lodestar, the first step is to calculate the number of hours reasonably expended by the attorneys for the prevailing party, excluding those hours that are “excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434; see also Grendel's Den, Inc. v. Larkin, 749 F.2d 945, 950 (1st Cir. 1984) (explaining that a court should subtract “hours which [are] duplicative, unproductive, excessive, or otherwise unnecessary.”). “[T]he court has a right-indeed, a duty-to see whether counsel substantially exceeded the bounds of reasonable effort.” United States v. Metro. Dist. Comm'n, 847 F.2d 12, 17 (1st Cir. 1988) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         After determining the number of hours reasonably expended, the second step in calculating the lodestar requires a determination of a reasonable hourly rate-a determination that is benchmarked to the “prevailing rates in the community” for lawyers of like “qualifications, experience, and specialized competence.” See Gay Officers League v. Puerto Rico, 247 F.3d 288, 295 (1st Cir. 2001). In determining a reasonable hourly rate, a court must consider “the type of work performed, who performed it, the expertise that it required, and when it was undertaken.” Grendel's Den, 749 F.2d at 951. The moving party bears the burden of establishing an attorney's level of skill and experience, and when that party fails to provide documentation as to the attorney's qualifications, a court may reduce the hourly rate. See, e.g., Martinez v. Hodgson, 265 F.Supp.2d 135, 142 (D. Mass. 2003).

         After determining the reasonable number of hours and hourly rate, the court may adjust the lodestar upward or downward based on a number of factors. Spooner v. EEN, Inc., 644 F.3d 62, 68 (1st Cir. 2011). Those factors include:

(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite 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) awards in similar cases.

Diaz v. Jiten Hotel Mgmt., Inc., 741 F.3d 170, 177 n.7 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 430 n.3).

         Plaintiff seeks to recover a total of $736, 346.87 in attorneys' fees and costs. That amount is broken down as follows:

Attorney

Work, Travel, or Expenses

Hourly Rate

Hours

Subtotals

Scapicchio

Work

$750

541.8

$406, 350.00

Scapicchio

Travel

$175

4.6

$805.00

Scapicchio

Expenses

N/A

N/A

$4, 960.93

Codagnone

Work

$350

919.7

$321, 895.00

Codagnone

Travel

$175

12.9

$2, 257.50

Codagnone

Expenses

N/A

N/A

$78.44

         In its opposition, the DOC raises four principal objections. It contends that a reduction to the number of hours is warranted because (1) Cox only prevailed on some of his claims, (2) his attorneys were inefficient and did not maintain proper billing records, and (3) his attorneys failed to differentiate between “core” and “non-core” work. The DOC further contends that (4) plaintiff's attorneys' hourly rates were unreasonably high. The Court will address each objection in turn.

         A. Attorneys' Fees

         1. Reduction for Hours Spent on Failed Claims

         The DOC first contends that no fees should be awarded for plaintiff's unsuccessful Section 1983 claim against defendant Stephen O'Brien.

[Where] a plaintiff has achieved only partial or limited success, the product of hours reasonably expended on the litigation as a whole times a reasonable hourly rate may be an excessive amount. This will be true even where the plaintiff's claims were interrelated, nonfrivolous, and raised in good faith. Congress has not authorized an award of fees [in civil rights cases] whenever it was reasonable for a plaintiff to bring a lawsuit or whenever conscientious counsel tried the case with devotion and skill. Again, the most critical factor is the degree of success obtained.

         Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436. Where claims are “unrelated” or “severable, ” they must “be treated as if they had been raised in separate lawsuits, and therefore no fee may be awarded for services on the unsuccessful claim.” Id. at 435. Claims are unrelated or severable when they “rest on different facts and legal theories.” Coutin v. Young & Rubicam P.R., Inc., 124 F.3d 331, 339 (1st Cir. 1997). However, where the “plaintiff's claims for relief . . . involve a common core of facts or [are] based on related legal theories, ” the “lawsuit cannot be viewed as a series of discrete claims. Instead, the district court ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.