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Corey v. Sedgwick Claims Management Services

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 18, 2018

Bruce Corey, Plaintiff,
v.
Sedgwick Claims Management Services, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         In its Order of October 26, 2017, this Court found that Plaintiff was the prevailing party in this litigation and entitled to fees. Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees in the amount of $91, 173.00 and costs in the amount of $1, 176.00. Defendants oppose Plaintiff's fee request, arguing that a significant portion must be disallowed. Defendants do not oppose Plaintiff's request for costs. For the following reasons, the Court concludes that Plaintiff is entitled to $72, 387.00 in fees and $1, 176.00 in costs.

         ANALYSIS

         Having already determined that Plaintiff is the prevailing party, the Court's next step is to determine a reasonable fee. Wayne v. Village of Sebring, 36 F.3d 517, 531 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 1939 (1983)). The starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is “the lodestar” calculation, which is “the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Id. Next, the court must exclude excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary hours. Id. Finally, the court must consider whether the fee should be adjusted upward or downward based on “the important factor of the ‘results obtained.'” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. This involves two questions: “First, did the plaintiff fail to prevail on claims that were unrelated to the claims on which he succeeded? Second, did the plaintiff achieve a level of success that makes the hours reasonably expended a satisfactory basis for making a fee award?” Id. If a court determines that fees must be adjusted downward because of this factor, it “may attempt to identify specific hours that should be eliminated, or it may simply reduce the award to account for the limited success.” Id. at 436-37. The court “has discretion in making this equitable judgment.” Id. at 437.

         The party seeking fees has the burden of producing documentation of the hours and rates in the lodestar amount, but the party challenging the reasonableness of the requested fee has the burden of showing that an adjustment downward is necessary. Myers v. Mutual of Omaha Life Ins. Co., 4: 14CV 2421 (N.D. Ohio August 23, 2017) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3rd Cir. 1990)).

         A. Hourly rate

         Defendants do not oppose the hourly rates requested by Plaintiffs: $400 per hour for attorney Andrew Margolius, and $300 per hour for attorney Emily Gilbert. In support of these rates, Plaintiff's counsel submitted their own declarations and resumes, examples of cases where similar fees have been approved, and affidavits from attorneys in the Cleveland area opining that counsels' rates are reasonable in this region. This evidence shows that the requested rates are fair and typical of those in the area. The Court, therefore, finds that they are reasonable.

         B. Reasonableness of the hours expended

         Plaintiff requests that his counsel be compensated for a total of 234.49 hours (208.26 hours for attorney Margolius and 26.23 hours for attorney Gilbert). Plaintiff has submitted itemized time and expense records for both attorneys. Defendants argue that a significant portion of these fees is unreasonable and must be excluded. The Court will address each of Defendants' arguments in turn.

         1. Hours expended on unsuccessful issues

         First, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's request must be reduced by the number of hours that his counsel spent pursuing issues on which Plaintiff was ultimately unsuccessful. Specifically, they ask the Court to reduce the hours that counsel spent on amending the complaint, pursuing plaintiff's Motion for Limited Discovery, opposing Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and filing Plaintiff's Notice of Supplemental Authority in support of his motion for attorneys fees, all of which were unsuccessful.

         “[W]ork on an unsuccessful claim cannot be deemed to have been ‘expended in pursuit of the ultimate result achieved.'” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435. Thus, fees may not be awarded for work on unsuccessful claims that are unrelated to the ones on which the plaintiff succeeded. Id. When claims “involve a common core of facts” or are “based on related legal theories, ” however, the rejection of certain grounds is not a sufficient reason for reducing a fee. Jordan v. City of Cleveland, 464 F.3d 584, 603 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435).

         a. Amending the complaint and opposing ...


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