United States District Court, D. Maryland
DIANNE K. VAN ROSSUM, Plaintiff,
BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND, Defendant.
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
K. Van Rossum (“Plaintiff”) filed suit against
her former employer, Baltimore County, Maryland (the
“County” or “Defendant”), claiming
that the Defendant, through its agents, violated provisions
of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) of
1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et
seq. Following a jury trial and judgment in favor of the
Plaintiff on all counts, Plaintiff moves for attorneys'
fees, expenses, and costs. See ECF No. 130. The
issues have been briefed, ECF Nos. 130-1, 147, 151, and no
hearing is required. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion
will be granted.
brought her ADA Complaint against Defendant in January of
2014. ECF No. 1. Following a jury trial held from January 23,
2017 through January 30, 2017, the jury returned a verdict in
favor of the Plaintiff and found that the Defendant violated
provisions of the ADA concerning physical ailments Plaintiff
suffered from while working in her assigned workspace in
early 2010. See ECF No. 126. The jury found
that 1) Defendant failed to provide Plaintiff with a
reasonable accommodation under the ADA, 2) Defendant
discriminated against Plaintiff because of her disability,
and 3) Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff because of her
protected activity of seeking accommodation. Id. The
jury awarded Plaintiff $250, 000 in compensatory damages and
$530, 053 in economic damages. Id. This verdict
provided Plaintiff with the full amount of back pay requested
and nearly the maximum amount of non-economic damages
permitted by law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(3).
Between filing the initial Complaint and return of the
jury's verdict, the parties briefed a number of issues
for the Court. See, e.g., ECF No. 27 (order granting
Defendant's motion for voluntary dismissal of motion to
dismiss) and ECF No. 63 (order denying Defendant's motion
for summary judgment).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
section 505 of the ADA, “[i]n any action or
administrative proceeding commenced pursuant to this chapter,
the court or agency, in its discretion, may allow the
prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable
attorney's fee. . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 12205.
Plaintiff obtained a favorable judgment on all counts, ECF
No. 129, and Defendant does not contest Plaintiff's
entitlement to recovery of a reasonable attorney's fee,
ECF No. 147 at 11. The amount of the fee to be awarded is a
fact-bound inquiry, and the trial court has broad discretion
in deciding what fees and costs are appropriate. See
Hensley v. Eckerhardt, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). A
plaintiff entitled to attorneys' fees under civil-rights
fee provisions are also entitled to recover reasonable
litigation expenses. Daly v. Hill, 790 F.2d 1071,
1084 (4th Cir. 1986).
most useful starting point for establishing the proper amount
of an award is the “lodestar, ” or “the
number of hours reasonably expended, multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate.” Id.; see also Rum
Creek Coal Sales, Inc. v. Caperton, 31 F.3d 169, 174
(4th Cir. 1994). The court must adjust the number of hours to
delete duplicative or unrelated hours, and the number of
hours must be reasonable and represent the product of
“billing judgment.” Rum Creek, 31 F.3d.
at 175 (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437).
“When the plaintiff prevails on only some of the
claims, the number of hours may be adjusted downward; but
where full relief is obtained, the plaintiff's attorney
should receive a fully compensatory fee and in cases of
exceptional success, even an enhancement.” Id.
at 174-75 (internal citations omitted).
assessing the overall reasonableness of the lodestar, the
court may also consider the twelve factors set forth in
Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d
714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974) (“the Johnson
factors”), specifically: (1) the time and labor
required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions
raised; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal services
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 between the attorney and the
client; and (12) attorney's fee awards in similar cases.
See Rum Creek, 31 F.3d at 175.
factors, however, “usually are subsumed within the
initial calculation of hours reasonably expended at a
reasonable hourly rate, [i.e., the lodestar].”
Randle v. H & P Capital, Inc., 513
Fed.Appx. 282, 283-84 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 n.9). The court is to
consider all twelve factors, but “need not robotically
list each factor or comment on those factors that do not
apply.” Dodeka, L.L.C. v. AmrolDavis, No.
7:10-CV-17-D, 2010 WL 3239117, at *2 (E.D. N.C. Aug. 16,
2010). However, the fee applicant bears the burden of
properly documenting the hours reasonably expended.
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437.
was represented by attorneys from Kirkland & Ellis LLP
and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
and Urban Affairs. Plaintiff seeks 1, 726.10 hours of
attorney and paralegal time at rates commensurate with each
biller's years of experience as published in Appendix B
to the Local Rules. See ECF No. 130-1 at 9
(providing a tabulation of hours for each phase of
litigation) and 11 (providing the rate sought for each
individual biller); see also ECF No. 130-2
(providing detailed time entries and proof of expenses for
Kirkland & Ellis LLP); ECF No. 130-3 (providing detailed
time entries and proof of expenses for Washington
Lawyers' Committee). Plaintiff documented the hours
expended by each individual for each phase of litigation as
required by Appendix B.1(b)(1)-(x). Specifically, Plaintiff
reported the hours under the following litigation phases:
Case Development; Pleadings; Written Discovery; Motions
Practice; Attending Court Hearings; Trial Preparation;
Attending Trial; ADR; and Fee Petition. Plaintiff alleges
that the hours, and associated rates, were reasonably
expended and result in a lodestar calculation of $487, 616.25
in attorneys' fees and $32, 472.30 in non-taxable
litigation expenses. ECF No. 130-1 at 6; see also
ECF Nos. 130-1 and 130-2 (providing declarations from lead
counsel that the hours and rates charged were reasonably
initial matter, Defendant does not object to the billing
rates sought or litigation expenses incurred. Indeed, rates
published in Appendix B are presumptively reasonable, see
Life Techs. Corp. v. Life Techs. Corp., No. RWT-10-3527,
2012 WL 4748080, at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 2, 2012), and Plaintiff
set forth an itemized list of costs for reimbursable expenses
as described in Appendix B.4. Therefore, the Court must only
determine if the amount of hours incurred was reasonable. Two
of the Johnson factors are particularly instructive.
the time and labor required was reasonable. The litigation
was complex, involving lengthy discovery, assessment of
Plaintiff's medical conditions by a number of experts,
and evaluation of a convoluted administrative record
encompassing a series of requests for accommodation made to
Defendant and disability determinations made by the Social
Security Administration. A review of the time records
provided by Plaintiff do not indicate that the individual
billers charged time for administrative tasks or for
excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary tasks that
they could not charge to a paying client. See
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 (“[h]ours that are not
properly billed to one's client also are not properly
billed to one's adversary”). Moreover, during
the course of litigation, Plaintiff has not raised frivolous
arguments or needlessly extended the length of its briefs to
re-litigate previously-resolved issues. See Perry v.
Bartlet, 231 F.3d 155, 164 (4th Cir. 2000) (upholding
denial of fees for hours spent briefing a motion when the
brief re-litigated an issue already substantially briefed).
Plaintiff obtained a substantial judgment and complete relief
on her claims. See Ford v. Rigidply Rafters, Inc.
999 F.Supp. 647, 651 (D. Md. 1998) (quoting Hensley,
481 U.S. at 436) (“The Supreme Court has characterized
the degree of success obtained as ‘the most critical
factor' in determining the reasonableness of an award of
attorney's fees.”). As noted by Plaintiff, and
uncontested by Defendant, Plaintiff's award appears to be
the tenth largest civil jury verdict in this Court in the
last five years. ECF No. 130-1 at 9 n.1. While it may be
unreasonable for a plaintiff to recover ...